Dental needs and issues change throughout our lives and the attention and treatments that are required will also differ from those at one point in their lives to others at a different stage in their lives. Growing older brings its own set of very specific dental problems that it’s important to be aware of – these are some of the most common.
As our gums age they become less elastic and this tends to cause them to recede. Receding gums can be problematic in a number of ways, including increasing the potential for tooth loss. People with receding gums may also have greater tooth sensitivity and the aesthetic impact of receding gums can create issues of self-esteem. The way that you brush can help to minimise receding gums, as can ensuring you have regular dental check ups and maintain healthy teeth and a healthy mouth.
A dry mouth increases the risk of cavities in the teeth as the absence of saliva means that bacteria can settle and grow. You may also have bad breath if you don’t have enough saliva or poor oral hygiene. There could be many causes for dry mouth in old age, including simply forgetting to stay hydrated or becoming dehydrated as a result of medication. However, dry mouth is not an inevitable condition of aging and doesn’t have to be a problem, as it is easily solved. Ensuring that you drink enough water each day is essential – on a normal day you should drink around 1.5 litres of fluid, increasing this if the weather is hot or you have been very active.
Lack of accessibility to getting to appointments
If you have issues with mobility and you’re reliant on others for transport, or moving is painful, then getting to dentist appointments can be difficult. The key is to plan ahead so that you know when your appointment is and you have transport arranged to get you there. Missing regular check ups is just not worth the pain and discomfort you can experience if issues are not dealt with.
Dentures are mostly commonly worn by the elderly and can be a great way to fix problems of tooth loss or gapping. However, you may also experience problems with your dentures, from breakages to those that no longer fit. To avoid issues with dentures, it’s important to make sure that you look after them properly. Dentures should be vigorously scrubbed with a toothbrush to clean them and soaked overnight – not worn while you’re in bed.
Older adults who have dementia have an increased risk of dental issues, such as tooth decay. Whether it’s as a result of losing the ability to brush teeth or simply forgetting to look after teeth and gums, there are many dental health risks for an elderly person with dementia. Regular visits to the dentist are essential and, if you have dementia, it can be useful to leave a note in the bathroom that lists what you need to do each morning and night to maintain an oral health routine.
A large number of elderly people use regular medication and this can have an impact on dental health. In particular it can be the cause of dry mouth that results in bad breath, bacteria and can also cause cracks and fissures in the tongue. Where this is happening, regular, small sips of fluid throughout the day can help to improve the situation.
Sensitive teeth and tooth loss
Gum disease and tooth loss are common in the elderly and can be painful and difficult to manage. This can result in increased sensitivity to hot and cold food and drinks and difficulty eating or talking where a tooth is no longer there. For sensitive teeth, a specialist toothpaste can be useful, and your dentist will be able to help you find solutions for tooth loss.
These are just some of the common dental problems that can come with age however, many of these issues can be easily managed by regular trips to your dentist and positive daily oral care.