Posted on Jun 29, 2020 in Senior Health
The oral health care of aging adults should never be neglected.
As we grow older, our teeth age with us. While the dental issues we experience as we age don’t change, the way our overall health is impacted by these issues is affected.
So, what are the common dental problems we encounter as we get older? We’ll be exploring this subject today so you can stay on top of your dental game.
According to the CDC, these are the most pressing oral health issues in aging adults:
Many seniors struggle with chronic health conditions. For many, this means managing pain with both over-the-counter and prescription medication.
Unfortunately, many of these drugs have side effects including a dry mouth and reduced saliva flow. As the amount of saliva in your mouth lessens, the risk of cavities rises.
As we age, the color of our dentin – the inner layer of the tooth – darkens. It’s mainly due to the stains caused by consuming too much tea or coffee that impairs teeth in this way.
Fruit juices, cola, and red wine can also stain our teeth as well as eating berries or adding curry powder to food.
The thinning of the enamel – the outer layer of the tooth – due to advancing age contributes significantly to changes in color. This results in the dentin being exposed so its staining is visible.
Mouth and pharyngeal cancers are mainly diagnosed in the elderly. The average age of patients diagnosed with this type of cancer is 62.
Studies show that 96% of seniors have tooth decay.
Beyond this, perhaps 1 in 5 older adults have untreated cases of decayed teeth.
According to the same CDC data, complete loss of teeth occurs far more frequently in the over-75s than the over-65s. Total tooth loss is twice as prevalent in the older age group.
Maintaining sound oral hygiene as we reach our golden years is of paramount importance. Poor oral health can easily lead to more serious health conditions. While a beaming white smile always boosts your confidence, keeping on top of dental care as you age is about far more than aesthetics.
What could go wrong if we don’t look after our teeth properly, then?
It’s still debatable if poor oral health can directly cause dementia.
Over recent years, some researchers have been asserting that poor oral hygiene can trigger the development of dementia, especially in later years.
This reasoning is based on the bacteria porphyromonas gingivalis present in periodontitis. This inflames the gums, and inflammation is known to play a major role in impairing cognitive function.
This is an inflammation of the tissues underlying a denture, especially if they are already ill-fitting.
Denture-induced stomatitis is caused by the fungus candida albicans.
Left untreated, you’ll have a sore mouth and potentially poorly-fitting dentures.
Getting dentures replaced is time-consuming and costly. Don’t let poor oral hygiene cause you to spend more time than you need in the dentist’s chair.
Extreme gum disease such as periodontitis can result in elevated blood sugar levels and could lead to diabetes.
Once diabetes sets in, this gum disease will make it even harder to control it.
Regular dental check-ups and proper oral care can help you avoid this complication.
Scientifically known as xerostomia, dry mouth is a condition resulting in reduced saliva flow or the complete absence of saliva. Saliva is highly beneficial for neutralizing the acids that cause dental plaque and cavities.
Dry mouth leads to pain and oropharyngeal disorders. This condition also increases plaque and dental cavities.
Approximately 25% of older adults have xerostomia with medications often the underlying reason for this condition developing.
These are characterized by the inflammation of gums (gingival tissues) brought about mainly by poor oral hygiene.
There are two types of gum diseases that result from poor oral health:
The bacteria that cause these gum diseases could produce more serious problems like cancer, dementia, diabetes, and heart disease.
As mentioned above, gum diseases can precipitate heart ailments. There’s a risk that the bacteria could spread to the bloodstream and produce plaque and blockage of the arteries. This clogging could eventually lead to a stroke or heart attack.
Bacterial endocarditis may also develop. This is a condition in which the lining of the heart becomes infected. Sadly, it’s always fatal.
Mouth bacteria droplets due to swollen gums and bad teeth can be breathed through the mouth and into the lungs.
Respiratory illnesses can also be spread to the lungs through the bloodstream resulting in acute bronchitis, acute respiratory infections, chronic pulmonary respiratory disorder, and pneumonia.
We are more prone to all these health conditions as we age so it pays to do what we can when it comes to oral hygiene. Every little bit helps.
Tooth loss not remedied with dentures could lead to an uneven jawbone.
The rest of the surviving teeth may shift around to fill the gaps. In such cases, the jawbone starts to look uneven. Bite issues start developing.
While primarily an issue of aesthetics rather than health, this is not a problem you want getting out of hand.
If you’re concerned about any aspect of oral health as you get older, get in touch with our friendly team here at Landmark Senior Living.
We’re here to help whether you need some more dental tips or some guidance on finding the right assisted living community near you.