Oral health is important at every age, but our needs change as we get older. People aged 65 and over have a unique set of challenges when it comes to keeping their teeth and gums healthy. If you’re an older adult or a caretaker for one, here’s what you need to know about aging and oral health.
Oral Health Challenges Faced by Older Adults
A number of dental issues affect older populations more than others, including:
- Xerostomia, commonly known as dry mouth. 30% of people aged 65 and older experience xerostomia, which can be caused by medications or health conditions like diabetes. Chronic dry mouth increases your risk for mouth sores, tooth decay, and other complications.
- Gum disease, also known as periodontal disease. Over 70% of older adults experience gum disease, which is a leading cause of tooth loss. Common symptoms include swollen, painful, or bleeding gums.
- Missing teeth. Older adults are more likely than younger people to be missing some or all of their teeth due to gum disease or tooth decay. This can interfere with eating and make it more difficult to get important nutrients.
- Denture-induced stomatitis. Stomatitis is a painful inflammation that can occur anywhere in your mouth. Some cases can be caused by dentures that don’t fit well or that aren’t cleaned properly.
- Oral cancer. Older adults are at an increased risk for oral cancer. Early symptoms to look out for include red or white patches in the mouth, a mouth sore that doesn’t heal, or a lump in the mouth. Talk to a doctor right away if you or a loved one is experiencing any of these symptoms.
Maintaining an oral health routine can be more challenging for older people if they have limited mobility or conditions like arthritis. In addition, some older adults may be struggling with cognitive issues like dementia or Alzheimer’s that can impair their ability to take care of their oral health. But even though it can be challenging, dental hygiene is an important part of overall health that shouldn’t be overlooked.
Oral Health Tips
To reduce your risk for common oral health problems that affect older populations, it’s important to:
- Brush your teeth and floss at least twice a day. If you have difficulty with these tasks, an electric toothbrush can help clean your teeth thoroughly. Floss picks also make flossing faster and easier.
- See your dentist at least once a year for a checkup and cleaning. Even if you use full dentures, your dentist can check the health of your gums and make sure your dentures still fit correctly.
- Use an antibacterial mouth wash once or twice a day.
- Drink plenty of fluoridated water. Fluoride strengthens tooth enamel and lowers your risk for tooth decay.
- If you suffer from dry mouth, sugar-free gum and lozenges can help. You may also want to try over-the-counter treatments like saliva substitutes. Limit your intake of caffeine and alcohol, both of which can make dry mouth worse.
Maintaining good habits can help you prevent serious oral health problems. If you have any questions or concerns about maintaining a healthy smile at an older age, call your dentist to learn more.
Award-Winning Houston Dentist At LifeSmiles by Dr. Randy Mitchmore, we provide world-class dental care in a relaxing, anxiety-free environment. To discuss how we can help improve your smile, contact us today.