30 Mar 5 Common Dental Problems in Older Adults
Tooth loss, gum disease, and other dental health issues do not have to be part of the aging process. Many of the dental issues that seniors commonly experience can be prevented with good oral hygiene and regular trips to the dentist. Let’s take a look at some of the most common dental problems in older adults, and how you can keep your smile bright for a lifetime.
Five Common Dental Problems That Older Adults Face
1: Gum Disease
Also known as periodontal disease, gum disease is a serious infection caused by bacteria buildup. This condition is extremely common in aging adults. In fact, around 70% of people aged 65 years or older have periodontal disease, according to the CDC.
One of the first signs of gum disease is gums that bleed easily when brushing or flossing. Other signs include gum recession, tenderness, redness, and loose teeth. If you notice any symptoms, it’s important to see your dentist right away.
Gum disease is a progressive disease, so early treatment can help prevent severe, irreversible damage. Gum disease isn’t curable, but the symptoms can be managed with professional treatments that stop its progression.
Certain medical conditions that commonly afflict seniors can increase your risk of gum disease. For instance, diabetes increases the amount of glucose in your saliva, which leads to more plaque buildup, making it more difficult to prevent gum disease. And rheumatoid arthritis causes inflammation that can affect your gums and make you more vulnerable to the disease.
2: Tooth Decay
Gum disease makes your teeth more vulnerable to decay because gum recession exposes more of the tooth’s surface. When left untreated, cavities can lead to dangerous tooth infections. And the worse the decay gets, the more invasive the treatment will need to be. Small cavities typically just need a filling, but advanced decay may require a crown or a root canal.
Contact your dentist for treatment if you notice any of the following signs of tooth decay:
- Pain when biting down
- Tooth sensitivity
- Grey, black, or brown spots on your teeth
- Persistent bad breath
- Visible holes in your teeth
3: Tooth Loss
Gum disease is the leading cause of tooth loss in adults. Untreated tooth decay can also result in tooth loss. Because older adults are more at risk for these conditions, they’re more likely to need dentures or implants than younger adults.
Maintaining good oral hygiene is key when it comes to preventing tooth loss. Make sure to brush your teeth twice a day for two minutes each time, and to floss daily. If you have mobility issues, consult your dentist about effective alternatives to using string floss, such as a water flosser.
Regular dental checkups are another important part of preventing tooth decay and gum disease. Adults typically need to visit the dentist twice a year for dental cleanings and exams. However, seniors may need to see the dentist more frequently to keep their oral health in good condition.
4: Dry Mouth
Certain medications used to treat heart disease, blood pressure, and many other health conditions seniors face can cause dry mouth as a side effect. Dry mouth allows more bacteria to build up on teeth, increasing the risk of tooth decay and gum disease.
If you suffer from dry mouth, speak with your doctor about adjusting your medication. Staying hydrated, using a humidifier, and sucking on sugar-free lozenges can also help manage your symptoms.
If your dry mouth symptoms don’t go away, you may need more frequent teeth cleanings in order to remove plaque and tartar and eliminate bacteria buildup.
5: Oral Cancer
Age is one of the main risk factors for oral cancer, because the disease takes years to develop. Oral cancer is most common in adults aged 55 or older.
One major benefit of frequent dental checkups is that your dentist can spot warning signs of oral cancer as early as possible. But you should also examine your gums, tongue, lips, and the rest of your mouth on your own.
Here are some of the symptoms to look for:
- White or reddish patches inside the mouth
- A growth or lump inside your mouth
- A sore that doesn’t heal
- Difficult or painful swallowing
- Mouth or ear pain
- Loose teeth
If you notice any of these symptoms, it’s important to contact your dentist right away to have your mouth examined. Getting an early oral cancer diagnosis gives you a better chance at successful treatment.
Dental Care for Seniors in Sun Lakes, Arizona
Preventing the most common dental problems in older adults requires professional care. Whether you need a checkup or have noticed some changes in your mouth, contact Dr. Saba and Associates.
We’ve been helping seniors in Sun Lakes protect their oral health with comprehensive dental care for over 30 years. Call our office at 480-895-2111 today to schedule an appointment.