Oral Health For Seniors: Ageing And Dentistry
Good dental hygiene and oral care habits are important at all ages. However, as you approach your golden years, you might wonder if your dental routine needs some tweaking, or if life changes might have caused changes in your mouth. The fact is that your mouth and needs likely have changed.
And working to keep a healthy mouth is more important than ever for older adults, since most people ages 55 to 64 are keeping some or all of their natural teeth.
If you have all of your original teeth, some of them or a full set of dentures, diligently caring for your mouth is just as important when you get older as it was when you were a child. It may be more important for seniors, as unlike young children they won’t be getting a second set of teeth if their current ones fall out!
At Bondi Dental we treat patients of all ages, but with full understanding of the differences that the decades can make to dental health.
Dental Issues Related to Ageing
A recent study found that nearly 33% of people over 65 had untreated cavities. In older people, cavities are found not only in the crown (visible portion) of the tooth, but also in the root, which may become exposed due to gum recession. The root is more vulnerable than the crown, so these cavities can develop quickly.
Gum disease is another major oral health issue for older people. In fact, it’s the leading cause of tooth loss in adults. The disease is caused by plaque bacteria, which thrive on teeth when they aren’t properly cleaned. Poor-fitting dentures can make the problem worse, as can the presence of some diseases.
Decreased mobility (due to arthritis, injury, or similar conditions) can make routine brushing and flossing difficult. Adaptive brushes with larger grips, electric toothbrushes, and floss holders can help make daily cleaning easier.
Oral cancer is always a concern, but it’s 7 times more likely to occur in someon over 65. Early detection gives the best chance to significantly improve survival rates. A thorough screening for oral cancer should be a part of every older person’s routine dental checkup.
Dry mouth (xerostomia) isn’t just annoying — it can also harm your oral health. Aside from its lubricating qualities, saliva contains beneficial digestive enzymes, acid neutralizers, and bacteria-fighting agents. In older adults, this problem is often due to side effects from prescription or over-the-counter medications. Dry mouth can be alleviated by chewing sugar-free gum, sucking on sugar-free candy, or small sips of water. In serious cases, medications are available.
The Link Between Dental and General Health
Oral health is essential to general health and well-being at all stages of life. A healthy mouth not only allows us to give our bodies nutrition, but it also improves social interaction and promotes self-esteem.
The mouth also serves as a peephole to the rest of the body, providing evidence of some general health disorders.
Oral conditions have an impact on overall health and disease. If the immune system has been compromised by disease or medical treatments (e.g., infective endocarditis), bacteria from the mouth can cause infection in other parts of the body, including the lungs. General health conditions and their treatment are also demonstrated to impact oral health (e.g., reduced saliva flow, altered balance of oral microorganisms).
Periodontal disease has been associated with a number of major chronic diseases – particularly heart disease and several types of cancer.
What To Do at Home
Dentists often may suggest some timely changes or improvements to an older patient’s home oral health care regimen, such as:
- Using a soft-bristled brush for regular toothbrushing.
- Gum stimulation.
- Flossing regularly.
- Chewing sugarless gum to increase saliva production and neutralize the pH in a patient’s mouth.
- Drinking plenty of water.
- Practicing good nutritional habits.
- Being careful of “hard” or “sticky” foods that might harm teeth or dentures.
Caring for Dentures
If you have dentures, either full or partial, here are some tips for care and maintenance:
- Remove and rinse dentures after eating.
- Handle your dentures carefully.
- Clean your mouth after removing your dentures.
- Brush your dentures at least daily.
- Soak dentures overnight.
- Rinse dentures before putting them back in your mouth, especially if using a denture-soaking solution.
- Schedule regular dental checkups.
- See your dentist if you have a loose fit.
And be sure to visit your Bondi Dental dentist at least twice a year!
The Bondi Dental Advantage
Bondi Dental is located in the Sydney area, at Bondi Beach. We offer high quality dental services for all patients, including specialised treatments for our more mature patients.
- Dental Check-up
- Dental Implants
Visit us at 134 Curlewis St in Bondi Beach.