National Oral Month: Oral Health for Aging Adults
With advances in healthcare and science, seniors are living longer than ever before. In addition, advances in oral health care prevention and disease treatment mean that many seniors will have some or all of their natural teeth.
As we age, our teeth change. Sometimes these changes are affected by chronic diseases and the use of medications. Some changes may include:
Sensitive teeth- sensitivity to hot or cold foods.
Exposed roots- gums may pull away from your teeth as you age. Exposed roots will be exposed to bacteria that can cause cavities
Darker or yellower teeth- this is caused to some extent, by changes in dentin, the bone-like tissue that underlies the tooth enamel and by a lifetime of consuming stain-causing foods and beverages. Colour changes can be caused by thinning of the outer enamel layer that lets the darker yellower dentin show through. A darkened tooth or teeth may signify a more severe problem and should be examined by your dentist.
Dry mouth- is caused by reduced saliva flow, which can result from treatments or medications. Many medicines can cause dry mouth.
A diminished sense of taste- While advancing age impairs the sense of taste, diseases, medications, and dentures can also contribute to this sensory loss.
Root decay- is caused by exposure of the tooth root to decay-causing acids. The tooth roots become exposed as gum tissue recedes from the tooth. Roots that do not have any enamel to protect them are more prone to decay than the crown part of the tooth.
Gum disease- is caused by plaque and made worse by food left in teeth, use of tobacco products, poor-fitting bridges and dentures, poor diets, and certain diseases, such as anemia, cancer, and diabetes.
Tooth loss- Gum disease is a leading cause of tooth loss.
Uneven jawbone- is caused by losing teeth and then not replacing missing teeth. This allows the rest of the teeth to drift and shift into open spaces
Denture-induced- stomatitis. Ill-fitting dentures, poor dental hygiene, or a buildup of the fungus Candida causes this condition, which is inflammation of the tissue underlying a denture.
Thrush- Diseases or drugs that affect the immune system can trigger the overgrowth of the fungus Candida albicans in the mouth.
Oral Hygiene Tips for Seniors
Daily brushing and flossing of natural teeth are essential to keeping them in good oral health. Plaque can build up quickly on the teeth of seniors, especially if oral hygiene is neglected, and lead to tooth decay and gum disease.
To maintain good oral health, it's important for all individuals -- regardless of age -- to:
Brush at least twice a day with a fluoride-containing toothpaste
Floss at least once a day
Rinse with an antiseptic mouthwash once or twice a day
Visit your dentist at least once a year for cleaning and an oral exam
Pro Tip: Set up daily reminders on your cell phone or other smart devices to help you keep on track with your oral hygiene.
Benefits of Caring for your mouth and teeth
Whether you can take care of your own mouth and teeth or require the help of someone else: To avoid health problems associated with teeth and gums it is important for aging adults to maintain good oral health habits including brushing, flossing, rinsing and visiting a dentist at least once a year.
Good senior dental care can help prevent many common problems, like toothaches, gum disease, and tooth loss. Like everyone, healthy teeth also help older adults enjoy a wider choice in food, eat healthier and can provide more self confidence. Self confidence allows for more social interactions and an overall better feeling of ones self.
Additional resources and tips for seniors and caregivers
From Sidney to Victoria BC, Pacific Coast Health Services provides home healthcare for seniors and persons with disabilities. From respite care & 24-hour care to dementia care & advanced foot care, our care line is open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week - 365 days a year. To book your free in-home healthcare assessment.