Losing teeth or developing gum disease are not inevitable consequences of getting older, but as a senior adult you are more at risk for certain oral health issues. The good news is that being aware of these issues means you can detect and treat them early. Here are some common problems older adults should watch out for.
More than half of all oral cancer patients are 65 or older, making it particularly important to take care of your oral health as you reach retirement age and beyond. The vast majority of oral cancer sufferers are tobacco users and many also drink alcohol frequently, so if you fit all three categories you should regularly check for any abnormalities in your mouth (sores, lumps, or rough patches) and get checked out if you start having difficulty chewing or swallowing. Your dentist is often the first person to spot early signs of mouth cancer, so keep regular check-up appointments every 6 months to ensure you are not at risk.
Dry mouth may not seem like a serious issue, but saliva plays a key role in washing away cavity-causing bacteria and a lack of it can lead to bad breath and tissue irritation and increase the risk of gum disease and tooth decay. Dry mouth is a common problem among older adults because it is a side effect of many medications (including those for high blood pressure, high cholesterol levels, Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s diseases). If you suffer from dry mouth, try regularly sipping water throughout the day and chewing on sugarless gum to promote saliva production. Caffeine and alcohol contribute to the problem, so limiting your consumption of these beverages can help to moderate the issue.
Gum tissue naturally recedes with age, exposing the root of the tooth and making it appear longer (hence the old horse-trading expression ‘long in the tooth’). This can cause sensitivity and make the tooth more prone to decay; a condition that commonly affects older adults. Gum recession is exacerbated by aggressive tooth brushing, so if you notice that the bristles on your toothbrush are very worn in a short period of time or your teeth feel more sensitive than usual, try switching to a soft-bristled brush and holding it with just three fingers to reduce the pressure on your gums.
Illnesses and disabilities associated with ageing can sometimes reduce mobility, making everyday tasks such as brushing and flossing more challenging. If your oral hygiene routine is suffering because you are finding it difficult to maintain, make sure you visit the dentist and dental hygienist twice a year to keep up with regular exams and deep cleanings.
To book your next appointment at Cliftonville Dental, call one of our friendly team members today. We look forward to your visit.