7 Oral Health Issues Common In Seniors

Dry Mouth

Dry mouth is a common issue in Seniors. Whether it occurs at night or during the day, dry mouth can be frustrating and uncomfortable. But when it comes to your oral health, dry mouth is more than just an annoyance it’s a serious issues.

Saliva is responsible for coating the teeth to protect them against damage, neutralizing acids, and washing away bad bacteria and bits of leftover food. When dry mouth occurs there is not enough saliva to accomplish these tasks. Overtime you will start seeing damage to your enamel, tooth sensitivity, early signs of gum disease, and cavities. If not taken care the damage from dry mouth will continue to get worse.

One of the common causes of Dry Mouth is taking certain medications. Many of the medications that cause dry mouth are taken by seniors such as; urological medications, antidepressants, and psycholeptics. In fact, 90% of people over the age of 65 are on some type of medication. Check this list to see if you’re medication has dry mouth as a side effect

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senior man covering his mouth

Bad Breath

Seniors often struggle with bad breath. Bad breath, also called halitosis, is an embarrassing condition that can cause suffers to avoid social events or close interactions with others. Bad breath can stem from a variety of reasons including bad dental hygiene or smelly foods. Bad breath can also be a sign of a more serious underlying health or dental problems such as infection, gum disease, or decay.

To eliminate bad breath try drinking more water, brushing your teeth (or dentures) twice a day, flossing daily, brushing your tongue, using anti-bacterial mouthwash, and avoiding smelly food. If your bad breath is still persistent after these steps schedule an appointment with one of our dentists to look for the root cause.

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Most people associate cavities with children and candy. However, overtime your tooth enamel wears down and it becomes easier for cavities to develop. This means the older you are the more chance you have of experiencing cavities, especially if you frequently eat or drink food that weaken your enamel such as soda, coffee, and citrus fruits for example.

Our dentists recommend seniors be diligent about their oral health routines brushing twice a day, flossing daily, and using an antiseptic mouth wash. Also limit foods and drinks that are high in sugar, carbonated, or very acidic. Seniors should also visit their dentists every 6 months for cleaning and evaluation, if you do develop a cavity or two your dentist will spot them and be able to fill them before they grow larger and become a big problem.

senior man suffering tooth loss

Tooth Loss

Tooth loss occurs most in seniors. On average patients over 65 years old have lost about 40% of their teeth, with 18.9 of their original 32 adult teeth left. But it gets worse, 27% of seniors have no remaining teeth.

Our dentists recommend a few things to stop tooth loss in seniors. 1) Proper dental hygiene including brushing twice a day, flossing daily, and using a mouthwash. 2) Getting regular dental cleanings to prevent gum disease and tooth death. 3) Stop smoking, as smoking is one of the major contributors to tooth loss in seniors.

If you do lose a tooth, visit us as soon as possible to explore replacement options that will preserve your ability to eat, talk, and smile comfortably. Replacement options include, bridges, dentures, and tooth implants. Your dentist will be able to recommend the best option for you and your lifestyle.

Poor Denture Care

Many seniors think that dentures are stronger and more durable than natural teeth. This is not true. Dentures are very similar to natural teeth. They can be damaged, discolor, and plaque can build up on them irritating your gum tissue and leading to gum disease. Even though they aren’t your natural teeth you must still practice good dental hygiene to keep your mouth and dentures healthy.

Our dentists recommend removing dentures after every meal/snack and rinsing them off to get rid of food particles. Brush your dentures in the evening with a soft bristle brush and let them soak in cleaning solution overnight.

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Gum Disease

Periodontitis, also known as gum disease, is a big problem in seniors. Gum disease takes years to develop, so older individuals are more likely to experience problems with gum disease than younger people. Gum disease, is an infection of the gums that starts out as plaque, an opaque film on the teeth that hardens to form tartar. As tartar accumulates, it harbors bacteria that attack the soft tissue around the gums. This is the early stage of gum disease known as Gingivitis.

Left untreated, Gingivitis becomes Periodontitis which ultimately destroys the tissue surrounding your teeth AND the bone that holds your teeth in place. Except for bad breath and gums that bleed, there are very few early warning signals. The disease advances silently, often without pain, and before you know it, you are losing your teeth and you don’t know why.

Scientific research has even discovered linkage between gum disease and stroke, heart disease, and diabetes. When your gums become diseased, your entire immune system is weakened, which can be detrimental to seniors who are already experiencing a weakened immune system because of age.

Gum disease can easily be prevented through proper dental hygiene and regular dental visits.

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Tooth Discoloration

Darkening of the teeth is natural and occurs over time especially in the senior population. Proper dental hygiene can reduce discoloration of your teeth but slight darkening is usually inevitable. For some seniors tooth discoloration can make them unhappy and hurt their self-esteem. If you are unhappy with the appearance of your teeth, there are cosmetic dentistry options that can help. Tooth whitening being one of the most common options, can help you achieve a brighter smile no matter your age. Dental veneers is another option seniors want to consider, this can brighten your smile and improve the shape/aesthetic appearance of your teeth.

If you’re suffering from any of the 7 common senior dental issues talked about above, we can help. Give us a call at 703-822-5583 or fill out our contact form.

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