Many older adults overlook their own dental care, as there is a pervasive myth that dental health concerns primarily affect children and young adults. Yet older adults are actually at an increased risk for certain dental issues due to physical limitations, medication side effects, and other factors. If you are an older adult or are taking care of one, be on the lookout for these 4 common dental problems.
Many older adults do not visit the dentist as often as they did when they were younger, which means that small cavities could develop into serious issues. They also have decades of fillings, root canals, and other dental treatments, any of which could eventually fail. Therefore, older adults are at a higher risk for tooth decay. The easiest way to prevent this, or to catch it while it is easy to treat, is to see the dentist twice per year.
Gum disease, or periodontal disease, is infection in the gums and soft tissues around the teeth. Early stage gum disease may have few if any symptoms, making it difficult to notice at home. As it progresses, gum disease can lead to bleeding, pain, and swelling. It can eventually result in tooth loss, and it even raises the risk of a system wide infection. Regular professional checkups are the key to catching gum disease while it can still be reversed.
Tooth decay and gum disease risks in older adults are due in part to a worsening ability to perform proper oral hygiene routines. Loss of dexterity, fatigue, pain in the hand or arm, and other symptoms are more common in older adults, and they can make it difficult or impossible to properly brush and floss. Your dentist can make suggestions on ways to adapt, such as using an electric toothbrush.
Dry mouth, also known as xerostomia, affects roughly 20 percent of adults over age 65. It is a common side effect of numerous medications, from diuretics to antidepressants to blood pressure pills. Many adults take multiple medications, potentially worsening the issue. To some extent, you can combat dry mouth by increasing your water intake and limiting alcohol and caffeine. However, it is also important to bring up the issue with your dentist for additional advice.
Missing teeth, poorly-fitted dentures, and other oral health issues can lead older adults to significantly change their diets. A varied diet is vital to good physical health, so eating difficulties should be addressed right away. Fortunately, this common problem is generally easy to treat.
Older adults have unique risk factors for oral health problems. If you are an older adult or are caring for one, it is important to schedule checkups twice a year and keep an eye out for any signs of issues. Older adults typically make fewer dentist visits than younger people, but this should never be the case.
Ready to Get Started?
If you would like to learn more or start treatment, please contact Dental Associates, LLP, at 860-677-8666 to schedule an appointment.