Common Dental Problems and their Effective Treatments for Seniors
As we age, our bodies change, and we’re more likely to experience certain health problems—high blood pressure, arthritis, and other similar issues. This is also true when it comes to oral health. Getting older means a higher risk of tooth decay, tooth loss, and other issues. However, while there’s a higher risk of certain oral health problems, there are effective ways to treat them, and prevent them from affecting your life.
For older adults, dry mouth is the main reason why the risk of cavities increases—but it’s not a normal consequence of aging. Dry mouth is actually a side effect caused by many of the medications older adults use. For instance, medications to treat high blood pressure, high cholesterol, pain, insomnia, and Parkinson’s disease can all reduce saliva production, leading to dry mouth.
Dry mouth is a problem because when there’s less saliva production, the oral environment becomes more acidic. This creates an environment where oral bacteria causes plaque, tooth decay, and cavities.
One effective solution may be to talk to your doctor about the possibility of switching medications to one that doesn’t cause this problem. If this isn’t possible, some other strategies include:
• Drink plenty of water, taking small sips often throughout the day.
• Chew sugar-free gum or candies to stimulate saliva production.
• Use oral sprays to keep your mouth moisturized.
• Avoid tobacco, alcohol, caffeinated drinks, and carbonated drinks—all of these can dry out the mouth.
Tooth Decay and Cavities
As dry mouth is a major contributor to cavity risk for older adults, addressing this problem is a good way to help prevent cavities. Keeping up with a daily oral hygiene routine is just as important.
Another contributing issue is receding gums, which leads to the exposure of tooth roots. The roots of teeth aren’t covered in the protective enamel as the crowns are, so the roots are very vulnerable to decay. If this becomes a serious problem, a procedure called a gum graft may be able to help, by restoring gum tissue to protect the roots.
Gum disease is quite common, as many adults have at least experienced the early signs, but the older you get the more likely the disease progresses further. Factors such as dry mouth, tobacco use, poor diet, and diabetes increase the likelihood that gum disease will worsen.
To keep gum disease at bay, keep up with daily brushing and flossing, and see your dentist regularly for a professional cleaning.
Although oral cancer is much less common than cavities and gum disease, it’s a very important reason to continue seeing your dentist regularly. Oral cancer tends to go unnoticed in the early stages, but your dentist can spot the early signs of oral cancer that are otherwise hard to detect.
Talk to Your Dentist for Advice
To keep your teeth and gums in great shape as you get older, it’s always important to continue seeing your dentist for regular checkups, and any other treatments you may need. At Hillcrest Dental Group, we are proud to help seniors throughout Petaluma with effective treatments to maintain a healthy smile. Call our office today to schedule an appointment.