Oral health is important for patients of all ages, but there are many problems that become more pressing in older patients. Seniors are more likely to experience trouble with lost teeth, denture care, discoloration, and periodontal disease. Understanding the hazards that are unique to seniors will help you get a better idea of how to address and prevent these issues.
Dry Mouth or Xerostomia
On average, your body should produce more than a quart-and-a-half of saliva each day. This helps break down food, wash away bacteria, prevent tooth decay, and protect against bad breath. If your mouth is too dry, you may experience myriad problems, from minor discomfort to major problems with cavities.
Dry mouth, also known as xerostomia, is caused by many medications that seniors take. Since roughly 90 per cent of people over the age of 65 are on some type of medication, dry mouth is particularly common in this age group. Infections, hormone changes, allergies, and blocked nasal passages can all lead to dry mouth as well.
Seniors often struggle with bad breath, which can make social situations uncomfortable. It’s important to understand that bad breath isn’t a symptom that stands on its own. There’s an underlying cause that you need to address, which can help you eliminate this issue. Dry mouth and periodontal disease can both contribute to bad breath.
Poor dental hygiene is another leading cause. You should see your dentist twice a year, and brush and floss daily to keep your teeth clean. If you have dentures, make sure you’re as vigilant about cleaning them as you would be about real teeth. Plaque can build up on both dentures and teeth, and this is a major contributor to unpleasant breath.
Tooth loss is a common problem among seniors. On average, patients over the age of 65 have 18.9 teeth remaining. Over 27 per cent of seniors have no remaining teeth. Smoking and poor dental hygiene are major contributors to tooth loss in this age group. See your dentist regularly to decrease your chances of losing teeth. If you do lose a tooth, visit your dentist as soon as possible to explore options that will help preserve your ability to eat, talk, and smile comfortably, such as a tooth implant.