Ageing and Dental Health
The demographic of adults 65 years of age and older is growing and will be a large part of dental practice soon. The ageing patient's health state can be complicated by comorbid conditions such as hypertension, diabetes mellitus and physiologic changes associated with ageing.
Older adults may regularly use several prescriptions and over-the-counter medications, making them more vulnerable to medication errors, drug interactions, or adverse drug reactions. Dental conditions associated with ageing include dry mouth, periodontitis, root and coronal caries. Patients may also show increased sensitivity to drugs used in dentistry, including local anaesthetics and analgesics.
Ageing occurs in the body's tissues, cells, and organs. These occurrences affect the teeth and gums. As you age, your mouth changes. The nerves in your teeth become smaller, making your teeth less sensitive to cavities or other problems. If you don't get regular dental exams, issues cannot be diagnosed until too late.
It becomes necessary to take good care of your dental health as you age. Losing teeth is inevitable, is a common misconception, which is not valid. If cared for properly, the teeth can last a lifetime. If you want to stay healthy, look great throughout life and feel good, you might be surprised what a difference a healthy mouth makes.
How can age affect oral health?
Specific changes occur as one ages, affecting tissue and bone in the mouth, increasing the risk of oral health problems. They are:
• Cells renew at a slower rate.
• Bones become less dense and strong.
• Tissues become thinner and less elastic.
• The immune system becomes weaker.
• Infection can occur more quickly.
• Healing takes longer.
Most common oral health problems in older adults
Older adults are at high risk for dry mouth. This occurs because of age, medicine use, or certain health conditions. Saliva plays a vital role in maintaining good oral health. It also protects the teeth from decay and helps gums stay healthy. The problems of tasting, chewing, swallowing, mouth sores, gum disease, and tooth decay increase when the mouth's salivary glands don't produce enough saliva.
When bacteria in the mouth changes sugars and starches from food into acid, dental cavities occur. This causes attacks of acid on tooth enamel leading to cavities. Cavities are common in older adults. Older adults often have receding gums, and these cavities are more likely to develop at the tooth's root.
A lifetime of brushing too hard can cause gums to recede. Receding gums are commonly found in older adults. This happens when the gum tissue pulls away from the tooth, exposing the root or the tooth's base, making it easy for bacteria to build up and cause inflammation and decay. Gingivitis is known as an early type of gum disease. Severe gum disease is called periodontitis. It leads to loss of teeth.
Oral cancer is observed in people older than age 45. Oral cancer is twice as common in men as in women. The most common cause of oral cancer are types of tobacco use, consuming alcohol and smoking. Other factors may include poor dental and oral hygiene, taking medicines that weaken the immune system, rubbing of gums and cheeks from rough teeth, dentures, or fillings over a long period.
How to protect the teeth and gum
Proper dental health care can keep the teeth and gums healthy, no matter what is the age.
• Brush twice a day with a soft-bristle toothbrush.
• Use fluoride toothpaste.
• Floss at least once a day.
• See your dentist for regular check-ups.
• Avoid sweets and sugar-sweetened beverages.
• Do not smoke or use tobacco.
Challenges, Changes and Solutions
One must not lose their teeth just because one turn old. Correctly cared for teeth should last as long as they do. Maintaining effective oral hygiene can get more complex. Arthritis, for example, can make brushing and floss difficult.
Using an electric toothbrush, with its oversized handle, is more accessible. Pre-loaded floss holders and water irrigation devices can also be beneficial.
Caregiving for an Elderly Loved One
You may have an older adult in your family who faces difficulty maintaining a healthy mouth on their own. What can you do to help? Three things are critical:
• Remind them to brush and floss daily to keep their mouth clean.
• Tasks that once seemed so simple can become very challenging.
• Make sure they visit a dentist often.
When to consult the dentist
One should see their dentist if they notice:
• Tooth pain.
• Dry mouth.
• Mouth sores.
• Poorly-fitting dentures.
• Red or swollen gums.
• Loose teeth.
• Bad breath.
• White or red patches in the mouth.
Visit Dr Kumarswamy's Dental Clinic to know how stress affects your oral health without you knowing about it. Our clinic provides the treatments required to improve your oral health and hygiene. Contact us to schedule your next dentist appointment.