As people grow older, we begin to develop a number of serious questions about the state of our health. As our bodies begin to breakdown, we can no longer take for granted that our health will remain as consistent as it did during our younger years. While creaky backs and achy joints may come to mind most frequently, your oral health also changes with age.
Considering what they go through on a daily basis, your teeth are remarkably resilient. However, a lifetime of wear and tear, eating foods high in sugar and starch, and a variety of diseases that develop with age can take their toll on the health of your teeth and gums. Here are some answers to common questions senior adults have about their oral health.
Do Seniors Need to Stay Concerned about Developing Cavities?
Even though cavities may seem like something only children need to worry about, seniors actually tend to develop cavities more often. This can occur for a several reasons. First, while most of us take for granted fluoride in our water supply and toothpaste, many senior Americans currently living today grew up at a time where fluoride wasn’t as commonly used. Second, senior adults have a higher risk of developing cavities in the root of their teeth due to receding gum lines exposing the roots to decay.
Finally, certain medications that senior adults take can cause dry mouth, which results in the body producing less saliva. Without enough saliva in the mouth, harmful plaque acids and food particles are allowed to remain, which contributes to tooth decay and gum disease.
What Causes Sudden Sensitivity to Hot and Cold?
Another consequence of receding gum lines, sensitivity to hot and cold foods and drinks is due to the gum tissue pulling away from a senior’s teeth. Gum line recession exposes the root of the tooth, which is very sensitive to both hot and cold temperatures. Seniors who suffer from sensitive teeth should try switching to a toothpaste specially designed to help deal with sensitivity.
Can Seniors Still Get Braces?
When it comes to straightening your teeth, seniors can still enjoy the benefits of braces. The mechanical methods used to move misaligned teeth back into position work for any age person, as long as their adult teeth have fully formed. However, unlike with children, an adult’s teeth are no longer growing, and correcting crooked teeth could require additional treatments other than just braces. It also typically takes adults longer to finish their treatment.
Are Seniors at a Higher Risk of Developing Oral Cancer?
Unfortunately, the older a person gets, the higher their risk of developing oral cancer becomes. For seniors, any strange lesion, sore, or bump needs to be watched closely and examined by a dentist. Studies have shown that individuals who regularly drink alcohol or smoke have a higher risk of developing oral cancer.
Can Loose Teeth Become Secured?
Seniors who experience loose teeth need to schedule an appointment with a periodontist to have their condition examined. Once the periodontist has examined your mouth, he or she will determine what options are available to strengthen the tooth’s structure. Individuals who suffer from certain conditions, such as diabetes, have a higher chance of suffering from loose teeth.
What Long-Term Consequences does Smoking Have on Oral Health?
For starters, individuals who smoke have a much higher risk of developing oral cancer than nonsmokers. Smokers also suffer from a variety of oral health problems, including increased recovery time following periodontal treatments and tooth extractions, halitosis, tooth discoloration, and increased bone loss in the jaw.
Should Seniors Still Visit the Dentist Even if They Have Few Remaining Teeth?
Yes. Even if a senior has few remaining teeth and no oral health problems, it’s still wise to have a dentist perform a comprehensive exam to look for signs of oral cancer or other medical problems in the neck, head, or mouth area.
What to do When Your Dentures Become Uncomfortable?
A person’s gums and supporting bone structure changes as they get older, so it’s not uncommon for dentures to begin to shift or feel loose. Your dentures are designed to fit perfectly, so if they begin to shift, you need to schedule an appointment with a dentist to have them adjusted. Never try to fix your dentures yourself by changing their shape, as this can cause serious, unrepairable damage.
Timothy Lemke blogs about senior oral health for Dr. Sarah Barber, a Vancouver WA dentist at Smiles Dental.