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After the age of 65, new oral challenges are introduced as the body continues to age. Various conditions can affect seniors and older adults.
On its own, active aging doesn't pose a risk for developing oral diseases. However, poor senior dental health may also affect digestion, speech, nutrition, self-esteem, quality of life, and social mobility.
Maintaining a healthy mouth by sticking to lifelong dental care habits is crucial for seniors.
Common conditions and diseases that affect people over 65 include:
Gingivitis is a minor gum infection that develops into periodontal disease (PD) if left untreated for a long period of time.
PD is a serious oral inflammatory disease that damages the gums, and jawbone. It may result in tooth loss. Around 35 percent of all tooth extractions are due to PD.1
Old age is a risk factor for gum diseases, with 70% of adults 65 years and older suffering from periodontal disease.2
However, Periodontitis can also result from poor dental hygiene due to:
Symptoms of periodontal disease include:
Tooth root caries are cavities that form on the root surface of a tooth. They’re caused by exposure of the roots to decay-causing acids.
The roots accumulate bacteria as the gums pull away from the teeth (typically due to periodontal disease). This is because roots are less protected than teeth since they don’t have enamel.
Since older adults have a higher risk of developing gum disease, they’re also more prone to root decay.
Some symptoms of tooth root caries are:
Common treatment options for root caries or decay include:
Bad breath is more likely to develop as people age, even if the individual practices good oral hygiene.
Some causes of bad breath are:
Aside from breath that may be unpleasant, other signs can indicate the presence of bad breath. These include:
Depending on the condition’s severity, there are many natural ways to reduce bad breath, including:
Dry mouth occurs when the production of saliva in the mouth decreases. This condition naturally occurs during sleep, which leads to bad “morning breath.”
Older people who sleep with open mouths or snore often are also more likely to experience dry mouth. Causes of chronic dry mouth include:
Some symptoms of chronic dry mouth include:
Home remedies are usually the first step to managing a dry mouth. They include:
In cases where home remedies aren’t enough, your doctor may prescribe medicine that stimulates saliva production. This may include pilocarpine (Salagen) or cevimeline (Evoxac).
Teeth stain naturally over the course of a person’s life. These surface stains are the clearest indicators of tooth discoloration.
The bumps, grooves, and “holes” in teeth pick up the stains, which results in darkening, white streaks, yellowing, or discoloration.
Tooth color depends on an individual’s lifestyle, diet, habits, and oral care practices. Factors that may affect tooth color include:
Discolored teeth don't only mean your teeth turn yellow. It can also mean your teeth have grey, brown, or black spots.
Professional teeth whitening is the safest and most effective way to brighten your teeth. There are many at-home teeth whitening options, including:
Dental cavities left untreated for a long time may result in more serious oral conditions or diseases. This can lead to tooth decay or missing teeth.
In seniors over 65 years or older, around 20% have lost all of their teeth.3
You'll know that your cavity is slowly turning into tooth decay when you experience the following symptoms:
When teeth fall out or need to be extracted due to extreme decay or gum disease, common restorative treatment options include:
Oral cancer, also called mouth cancer, begins with the development of abnormal carcinoma cells.
As a result, mouth sores that don’t disappear on their own develop. The disease is life-threatening without early diagnosis and treatment.
Unfortunately, oral cancer is usually discovered after it has spread to another part of the body, such as the lymph nodes.
Other symptoms may include:
Surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy are common treatment options, depending on the cancer stage.
Early detection is the key to a high survival rate. So, seeing your dentist at least once a year for an oral cancer screening is crucial.
Stomatitis is defined as inflammation of the mouth and lips.
In particular, dentures may cause stomatitis in older adults if the artificial teeth don’t fit correctly or aren’t cleaned properly. It can also happen when the dentures grow fungus (Candida albicans) over time.
Common symptoms of stomatitis include:
Here are some treatment options for stomatitis:
Missing teeth is the most common outcome of seniors neglecting their oral health. As such, many senior dental care treatments focus on treatments restoring your smile.
Here are some of the most common senior dental care treatments:
After an extraction or tooth loss, an implant is commonly used to replace the permanent tooth. A dental implant, or artificial tooth root, is placed in a patient’s jawbone. In short, the implant mirrors the shape of a screw and bonds with the natural bone.
A dental bridge is a fixed (permanent) restoration used to replace one or more missing teeth in a patient’s dental arch. In more serious cases, multiple bridges can be positioned to provide full-mouth rehabilitation.
When a person loses all or some of their natural teeth from tooth decay, gum disease, or an injury, dentures are placed to restore some chewing functions and esthetics.
Older adults are more prone to dental problems due to various factors. To prevent senior dental issues, it's important to do the following:
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