Dental care for senior citizens

Aging makes way for a long series of health problems, including dental problems. But age is not the sole factor that affects the oral health of elder people. In this article, you will learn about some of the issues that affect the elderly and what you should do in those cases.

Dental and oral problems

1. Darkened teeth. The interior of the tooth (the dentin) is not white. With age, the exterior of the teeth (the enamel) which is white will become thinner, showing the color of the dentin, causing discoloration.
2. Dry mouth. The dryness of the mouth is the result of reduced saliva flow, and it does not come with age. Dry mouth can be the result of cancer treatment with radiation to the neck and head, or the side-effect of certain medication. If you think medication is causing the dry mouth, contact a dentist to offer you an alternative.
3. Root decay. This condition results from the exposing the tooth’s root to acids. The root of the teeth can become exposed if the gum tissue recedes. Enamel does not protect the teeth under the gum line. Gum disease can cause the gum tissue to recede.
4. Gum disease. The plaque that accumulates due to improper oral hygiene can cause gum disease. Using tobacco and poor-fitting dentures or bridges can also cause gum disease. This is a common problem that affects older adults.
5. Tooth loss. The primary cause of tooth loss is periodontal disease (gum disease).
6. Denture-induced stomatitis. Wearing a poor-fitting denture can cause the accumulation of Candida fungus, which will cause inflammation of the tissue under the denture.
7. Thrush. Drugs or diseases which affect the immune system will cause Candida fungus to overgrow.

Oral tips for seniors

Brushing and flossing become crucial at old age. Plaque builds up faster on the teeth of older adults, especially if they neglect oral hygiene. To maintain the oral health of an elderly, they should:
• Brush their teeth twice every day with a fluoridated toothpaste
• Floss and rinse with antiseptic mouthwash at least once a day
• Visit the dentist regularly for dental checkups and cleanings.
The antibacterial mouthwash reduces the bacteria that causes gum disease and plaque.

Dental exam for seniors

Elder people should go to the dentist regularly. At the office, the dentist might ask:
• The last time you visited a dentist
• If you noticed any dental changes
• If you have sensitive teeth or if you noticed loose teeth
• If you can chew, swallow or taste properly
• If you feel any bumps, lumps, or swelling is your mouth.

During the oral exam, the dentist will check your face, neck (for sores, moles, and skin discoloration), bite (for misalignment), jaw (for TMD), salivary glands and lymph nodes (for infection), inner cheeks (for ulcers, and infections), tongue, gum tissue, and your teeth (for tooth decay).

Having a good oral hygiene as a senior is also crucial for maintaining the overall health. For more information about oral care for elderly, ask your dentist.

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