5 Common Senior Dental Care Issues
Nobody is really surprised when, as they get older, their health begins to deteriorate. Some of us take great pains to preserve our bodies with proper diet, exercise, supplements, and so on, while others spend their lives loafing around and eating what they please. Still others work themselves to death (so to speak) at demanding and stressful jobs. But the relentless march of time gets to us all, and sooner or later you’re going to suffer medical issues related to aging. And while you’re busy worrying about the possibility of a slip and fall accident or glaucoma, you may be neglecting your dental health. But our teeth often show signs of aging right along with the rest of our bodies, so you need to watch out for common issues so that you can avoid them and keep you natural chompers in ship shape as long as possible. Here are a few dental conditions that affect many seniors.
- Yellowing, staining, and discoloration. It is natural for our teeth to change color as we age, but most of the issues that cause this are both preventable and reversible. Yellowing, for example, occurs when our enamel erodes and the yellow hue of the dentin underneath begins to show. Staining is caused primarily by foods and beverages that are dark (wine, coffee, tea, etc.) or contain chemical dyes – tobacco products also cause staining. And discoloration could be the result of certain medications or even teeth that are beginning to die. Many of these problems can be addressed through whitening, but by keeping your enamel strong (avoiding sugary and acidic foods and remineralizing with foods high in calcium and phosphorous), steering clear of staining agents, and working to prevent tooth decay, you may never experience the level of discoloration that other seniors suffer.
- Dry mouth. It is not uncommon for seniors to notice that their saliva production slows as they age. Although it can be related to certain diseases and it is a common side effect of many pharmaceuticals, it can also occur naturally. Saliva helps to reduce the food and bacteria that can hang around and cause plaque, tartar, tooth decay, and gum disease. But there’s not a lot you can do to make your mouth produce more. So you’ll have to compensate by drinking plenty of water to rinse your mouth throughout the day. Products like Biotene can also help.
- Tooth decay. As we age, our gum tissue is likely to recede somewhat. Unfortunately, this can expose the roots of your teeth to damaging bacteria, leading to tooth decay. While there are surgeries to rebuild your gums (using tissue from the roof of your mouth) you may not have to go to such extreme measures to prevent tooth decay. Proper brushing and flossing throughout life can help to keep your gums healthy and intact. And once the tissue starts to recede, rinsing with mouthwash can help to fight harmful bacteria. Regular dental visits are also a must.
- Gum disease. When your gums become red, inflamed, and tender, there’s a chance you’re dealing with gum disease, which is mainly caused by pockets of bacteria that grow under the gumline. But it can be exacerbated a number of factors, including smoking or chewing tobacco, plaque and tartar buildup, diet, diseases, and ill-fitting dental work. Treatments vary, but you’ll definitely need to see your dentist to determine the severity of the issue.
- Tooth loss. Unfortunately, the damage we do to our teeth can eventually lead to tooth loss. And unless you have senior dental care insurance of some kind, you may find the cost of tooth replacement a bit beyond your budget. In truth, most insurance will cover some or all of the cost for bridges and dentures, but generally only a small percentage of dental implants, which are quite pricy. The best solution is to prevent tooth loss if at all possible with proper care and regular visits to Embassy Dental or your local office of choice. But if your best efforts aren’t enough, take the time to discuss options with your dentist in order to find a workable solution that allows you to smile and chew normally, without any gaps.