Date: 1st Mar. 2018
As with the rest of your body, your mouth changes with age. Your teeth may become less sensitive to cavity-associated pain and other oral problems, early detection can become an improbability. As a result, many people think that it is completely normal to lose your teeth in old age. In fact, close to 75% of adults older than 60 only have a portion of their natural teeth left. However, if you maintain proper oral hygiene, your teeth can last you a lifetime.
In addition, poor oral health has also been associated with increased risk for heart disease and diabetes! Hence, if you want to maintain your quality of life, frequent dental appointments and stellar oral health management become a must for seniors.
Oral Health Problems That Arise with Age
Below listed are some of the common problems faced by seniors:
Saliva is naturally basic in nature, which helps in keeping bacterial activity in check. Xerostomia is a condition in which a person suffers from chronic dry mouth due to low or no saliva flow. Consequently, it can result in bad breath, tooth decay, change in taste, dry or sore throat, and other oral complications.
Causes of dry mouth:
-Reduced salivary gland function owing to ageing;
-Side-effects from antihistamines, analgesics, decongestants, diuretics, and certain bronchodilators; and
-Certain conditions like Sjögren’s syndrome, diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, hypertension, Alzheimer’s disease, etc.
As indicated by its name, root decay is cavities on the roots of the teeth. It is one of the major reasons why older adults face tooth loss. In fact, approximately half of all adults aged over 75 suffer from root caries. Some of the risk factors for root decay include receding gums, dry mouth, and limited dexterity (since it makes it harder to brush and floss).
Gum disease – affecting 23% of adults aged 65-74 years – is also a major reason for tooth loss and poor oral health in seniors. Gum disease is caused by plaque build-up on teeth and under the gums. Most common symptoms include red, swollen, or bleeding gums. Lack of oral hygiene, tobacco use, cancer, diabetes, etc. is generally associated with gum disease in the elderly.
The microbe responsible for causing denture-induced stomatitis is a yeast called candida. Candida infection can affect other body parts too but when it appears in the mouth, it’s called denture-induced stomatitis. It is usually seen in denture wearers, hence responsible for the disease’s name.
Denture-wearers, who are typically elders, have difficulty keeping their mouths clean. This leads to a build-up of candida. Denture-induced stomatitis presents itself as inflammation of tissue underlying the dentures.
Years of wear and tear causes the enamel, tooth’s outer layer, to thin down, revealing the inner dentin layer. Dentin is naturally yellow hence, it gives the teeth a dull appearance. Moreover, beverages like coffee, tea, wine, etc. can also stain dentin, making the teeth look discoloured. Another cause for tooth discolouration is smoking and tobacco use, which also causes distinctive tooth stains.
Tips for Maintaining and Improving Your Oral Health
Old age is associated with many health problems and an overall decrease in the quality of life. However, that shouldn’t have to be the case with your oral health as well! Here are some tips for improving and maintaining your oral health:
Morning and Bedtime Routine
The first tip is obvious yet neglected by many. Despite most oral problems being completely preventable, most of us suffer from one oral ailment or another. This is due to lack of a hygiene routine. It is mandatory for everyone – especially for seniors – to brush, floss, and rinse every day.
If you are suffering from a condition that limits your mobility, consider using an electric toothbrush instead of a regular one. Similarly, you can use floss picks instead of regular floss to make flossing easier.
Since the loss of teeth is a big problem with seniors, many of them wear either full or partial dentures. But like natural teeth, even dentures need to be regularly taken care of. To maintain oral health while wearing dentures:
-Rinse your dentures with water after every meal;
-Clean your natural teeth and gums.
In addition, ill-fitting dentures can be responsible for irritation, painful sores, burning sensation in the mouth, etc. If your dentures don’t fit you right, your dentist may prescribe you a denture adhesive to improve the fit and bite force.
Combating Dry Mouth
If you suffer from dry mouth, it can lead to a number of other complications. That’s why you need to keep your mouth moist and avoid vices like smoking or alcohol consumption, which dry out your mouth. You can also use a saliva substitute like ICPA’s Wet Mouth that helps in easing the discomfort caused by xerostomia.
The enamel layer of your teeth is composed of a mineral called fluoride. So, when you use a fluoride mouthrinse like Fluoritop, it aids in strengthening your enamel and making your teeth more resistant to decay.
Majority of people visit their dentist only when an oral problem is visible. But, by doing so, it’s already too late! Visit your dentist at least twice a year, or more frequently if you’re already undergoing some treatment. This will reveal any early signs and you can address them before they become worse.
Regardless of whether you have your natural teeth, wear dentures or implants, you can improve your oral health with these tips. Simply adopt healthy oral habits, make smart diet and lifestyle choices, and get regular dental check-ups. If you are considering using a new oral care product, make sure you consult your dentist first.