While major dental health issues like gum disease, tooth sensitivity, and dry mouth may occur at any time during our lives, we become much more susceptible to these conditions as we age. Below is a list of the most common dental issues elder patients experience and the steps we should take to treat and prevent them:
Keeping up with regular dental check-ups is critical when it comes to preventing gingivitis, the first stage of gum disease. Left untreated, gingivitis will escalate and eventually become irreversible, at which point it becomes a serious disease that can affect more than just dental health. The challenge here is that many times, gum disease comes with no warning signs at all, which is why it is so vitally important to get regular dental check-ups.
As time progresses, we all run an increased risk of losing teeth. On average, adults between 20 and 64 have three or more decaying or missing teeth. Missing teeth can affect how you speak, eat and chew. In addition, the healthy teeth that remain in your mouth will often shift, creating more areas for decay to be introduced. The area around the missing tooth can experience bone loss.
Fortunately, there are several effective treatment options for missing teeth. Today’s advancements in technology allow for bridges, which are anchored to adjacent teeth and can be either fixed or removable. In cases where a patient has lost several teeth, dentures are probably the best option for filling the spaces. But often times, implants are the best option for replacement as they are the most similar to the lost natural teeth. Check with your dental professional to explore options as soon as you lose any of your teeth.
Overly Sensitive Teeth:
As we age, fractured teeth, worn fillings, tooth decay, gum disease, worn tooth enamel or an exposed tooth root can lead to teeth becoming more sensitive to hot or cold foods and drinks. This can make every meal time a worrisome adventure and can curtail the quality of life in the relationship you once had with certain foods like ice creams or hot teas. Although sensitive teeth can be acutely painful, they can usually be easily treated with desensitizing toothpaste or various other treatments based – all based on the intensity of tooth sensitivity. Check with your dentists for possible options.
It’s true that dry mouth is an issue that many Americans suffer from daily, no matter what their age. There are many health conditions and medications that can lead to dry mouth. The bad news is that this decrease in salivary flow can lead to tooth decay. And many times, especially in elder patients, dry mouth is a result of another underlying disease or condition that should be checked out. Even if you suspect your case of dry mouth is simply a side effect of a medication you are taking, tell your dentist about it during your next visit. They can better determine the rudimentary cause and suggest treatment options.
Often beginning as a tiny, unnoticeable red or white spot (or sore or swelling) anywhere in the mouth, Oropharyngeal Cancer is a serious condition that grows increasingly more likely to develop as we get older. The sores bleed easily and usually don’t heal. Other symptoms of mouth or throat cancer include a thick or hard spot or lump, a roughened or crusted area, numbness, pain, or tenderness and a change in the way your teeth fit together when you bite down. Once again, because the symptoms are usually easily dismissible, it’s important to have regular check-ups with your dentist.
As we age, our teeth are no different than the other parts of our bodies; they need a little help in order to effectively function as they did when we were newer and younger. The good news is, there are affordable treatments for almost every one of these conditions. It’s up to you, as the health-conscious patient, to make sure your dental professional is aware of any of these problems as soon as you become aware of them. Together, you can retain oral health and comfort for years to come.