Taking care of the mouth and teeth, and preventing dental decay is incredibly important for everyone, but especially for seniors. If not taken care of properly, it can lead to issues with the teeth and gums and can cause problems like cavities or tooth loss.
Tooth decay is a severe problem among the elderly population. In fact, many seniors have dental decay issues that can lead to tooth loss. Other dental health problems along with tooth loss include gum disease, oral cancer, and more.
Luckily, there are some simple lifestyle changes that you can make to improve your dental health. For instance, limiting alcohol intake, quitting smoking, flossing regularly, and avoiding sugary foods and drinks are all easy things that you can do today to help your dental health tomorrow.
What Is Tooth Decay?
Tooth decay is damage to the tooth that occurs when bacteria in your mouth makes acids that then attack the enamel in the teeth. This can cause small holes, called cavities, to appear in the tooth. If it isn’t treated, it can cause pain, infection, and even tooth loss.
Tooth decay is often caused by bacteria coming into contact with sugars and starches that come from foods and drinks. The acids released by the bacteria will attack the tooth enamel, causing it to lose minerals.
Seniors are one of the most at-risk populations when it comes to tooth decay. Many older adults have receding gums which can allow bacteria in the mouth to come in contact with the tooth’s root. This can lead to decay in exposed root surfaces.
Tooth decay among seniors is a very common thing. In fact, according to the National Institutes of Health, approximately five percent of seniors age 65 and older have no teeth. Meanwhile, seniors averaged over nine decayed or missing permanent teeth.
Preventing Dental Decay
There are a number of easy day-to-day things that you can do to improve your dental health and prevent tooth decay.
Brush — The most obvious tip for improving dental health and preventing decay would be to brush the teeth regularly. It is recommended that you brush twice a day with fluoride toothpaste.
Floss — Flossing is something that people often forget about or flat-out ignore when it comes to their dental health. Cleaning between the teeth with floss or some other type of cleaner
Don’t Smoke or Use Tobacco — Smoking cigarettes and using tobacco can lead to a number of different effects on your oral and dental health and can lead to many problems such as oral cancer.
Eat Smart — This is one thing that is often overlooked when it comes to dental health, but limiting sugary snacks and drinks can help to improve your dental health. Bacteria in your mouth will feed off the sugars in high-sugar foods and drinks, which can lead to tooth decay. Sugary drinks like soda and lemonade can also cause tooth decay due to high acidity. One of the best things you can do to improve tooth health and avoid decay is by drinking tap water with fluoride.
Use Fluoride — Fluoride is a mineral that is used to prevent tooth decay from progressing. It can also revere, or stop early tooth decay. Fluoride prevents mineral loss in tooth enamel, replaces lost minerals, and reduces the ability of bacteria to make acid. The two most common ways to get fluoride are through community water supplies, or tap water, and brushing with fluoride toothpaste.
Other good ways to maintain oral health include visiting your dentist on a regular basis, limiting alcoholic drinks, avoid dry mouth, and more.
Other Dental Health Issues
Along with tooth decay, there are a number of other dental health problems that can occur as a result of improper dental maintenance.
Many people across the country have some form of gum disease. These problems can range from simple gum inflammation, called gingivitis to serious problems with the tissue and bone that support the teeth. In the worst cases of gum disease, you can lose teeth.
Oral cancer refers to cancer that develops in many parts of the mouth including the lips, gums, tongue, cheeks, and more. Signs and symptoms of mouth cancer include a sore in the mouth that doesn’t heal, loose teeth, ear pain, mouth pain, white or red patches on the inside of the mouth, difficulty or pain while swallowing, and more.
As we age, many seniors require the use of medications. In fact, many seniors have many different types of medications. Unfortunately, many of these medications can lead to adverse health such as overgrown gums and dry mouth. Hundreds of medications list dry mouth as a side effect. Dry mouth can lead to a number of different problems including irritation and infection of oral tissues and gum disease.
Obviously, there are many different health-related problems that can occur from not properly caring for your dental health. Learning more about these specific problems and taking the time to change your dental habits can be all it takes for you to avoid these issues.
For many, the lifestyle changes associated with improved dental health can be easy. However, for some suffering from debilitating age-related problems such as Alzheimer’s or dementia, it can make the tasks like preventing dental decay nearly impossible. When these issues get in the way, it may be best to seek the help of a caregiver or assisted living facility that can help.
One assisted living facility in New Mexico that can help is Landmark Senior Living. Landmark has a number of facilities available which are staffed with dedicated and knowledgeable employees that are committed to giving your loved one the proper care that they need and deserve. Landmark also boasts memory care services to help those who are dealing with issues related to dementia. If you or a loved one is interested in learning more about what Landmark has to offer, you can visit our website and schedule a free tour of one of our many facilities.