Dental care is important for people of all ages, however, as we age our teeth become more susceptible to problems. In fact, tooth decay remains the most prevalent chronic disease in seniors, even though it is largely preventable.
According to the National Institutes of Health, about 93 percent of seniors have tooth decay in their permanent teeth while about about five percent of seniors aged 65 and older have no teeth at all. Seniors 65 and older average 9.24 decayed or missing permanent teeth.
Despite the fact that many seniors deal with poor dental health, it is something that is largely preventable if the teeth are properly taken care of. Learning more about the things you need to avoid and recommended oral health care can help prevent you from running into these problems down the road.
Oral Health and Seniors
The senior population is growing, and as it grows, more and more people will deal with
Tooth Decay — Tooth decay is damage to a tooth’s surface, or enamel. Tooth decay occurs when bacteria in the mouth make acids that attack the enamel. The problem can lead to cavities, or holes in the teeth, it can cause pain, infection, and even tooth loss. Tooth decay is a serious problem and about one in five seniors have untreated tooth decay.
Gum Disease — Gum disease is an infection of the gum tissue that hold the teeth in place. Gum disease generally occurs when poor brushing and and flossing habits that allow plaque to build up on the teeth and harden. As the problem becomes more severe it can lead to sore, bleeding gums, painful chewing problems, and even tooth loss. A high percentage of older adults have gum disease, in fact, about two thirds of seniors have gum disease.
Tooth Loss — While tooth loss in seniors, both partial and total loss, has decreased in recent years, it is still an issue that affects a number of those 65 and older. In fact, about one in five seniors have lost all their teeth. Having widespread tooth loss or wearing dentures can affect nutrition as people with less teeth or with dentures prefer soft, easily chewed foods instead of fresh fruits and vegetables.
Oral Cancer — Oral cancer represents about three percent of all cancers diagnosed in the United States and almost 50,000 Americans are diagnosed with this largely preventable type of cancer each year. The problem definitely affects older individuals more than younger people.
Chronic Disease — Many older adults take both prescription medication and over-the-counter drugs, many of which can cause dry mouth. This reduced saliva flow can increase the risk of cavities as saliva helps to wash away food and neutralize acids produced by bacteria in the mouth. All of this helps to protect the body from microbial invasion and overgrowth that can lead to disease.
Treatment for Seniors
The good thing about oral health is that a majority of these issues are preventable. Unfortunately, a major problem in the senior community is the elderly and residents underestimating their health care need.
While a majority of seniors have been to the dentist in the last year, there are still a number that don’t go regularly enough. According to the National Institute on Health, 23 percent of seniors have not been to to the dentist in the last five years. This can cause major problems for your teeth, it is recommended that you visit a dentist once or twice a year. During checkups, dentists will look for signs of disease, infections, and injuries. If your oral health is in severe condition, your dentists may recommend more frequent visits.
Dentists recommend that everyone should brush their teeth at least twice a day with fluoride toothpaste and floss at least once a day. Flossing works to help remove the plaque from between your teeth, a place that is difficult to reach by brushing. Other tools can be used to remove plaque such as wooden or plastic picks and water flossers.
It is recommended that you limit the number of sugary foods and drinks that you have. If you drink soda, try to make a conscious effort to drink less and replace it with water. Even diet soda has a number of acids that can erode tooth enamel. Smoking is also an incredibly unhealthy habit that can raise your risk of gum disease and mouth and throat cancers. It can also stain the teeth an lead to bad breath. It is also important to replace your toothbrush every three to four month or sooner if the bristles become frayed.
Other recommendations to maintain a healthy mouth and strong teeth include:
- Drink fluoridated water
- Limit alcoholic drinks
- Avoid dry mouth
Overall, preserving dental health is important for people of all ages, it will allow you to eat the food you want to eat, bypass costly health operations, and avoid certain diseases.
Like most areas of the body, the mouth is filled with bacteria. While most of these bacteria are harmless, some of it can still be harmful to the body. The body’s natural defenses and good oral health care can help to remove this bacteria and keep the problem under control. However, without proper oral hygiene, bacteria can reach levels that can lead to oral infections and problems like tooth decay and gum disease. It is important that everyone, including senior citizens, prioritize dental health. If not done, it can lead to various diseases and conditions, including cancer.
Overall, as we age, maintaining health can become more and more difficult. For some, it can even interfere with day-to-day tasks. If this is the case for your or your loved one, it may be best to look for help from a caregiver or an assisted living facility. Landmark Senior Living is one facility that is dedicated to helping your loved one have a healthy and happy time during this stage in their life. If you are interested in learning more, please visit our website.