Common Dental Issues For Older Patients

Oral Health Problems to Look Out For As You Age

Throughout our life, caring for our teeth is a daily priority. As we get older, we can experience dental issues that we didn’t have before. That’s why it’s important to gain an understanding of the specific dental issues that are common in older people.

In this article, we will explore specific issues to look out for. We’ll also answer the questions, “Do I need dentures?” and, “Should my oral hygiene habits change?”

Let’s take a closer look at common dental issues in older patients and how to solve them.

How Oral Health is Linked to Your Overall Health

In recent years, the link between our oral health and overall health has become clearer.

The mouth is full of bacteria and is also the gateway to the body. Some of these bacteria can spread into our digestive and respiratory systems.

If bad bacteria accumulate in the mouth, it can lead to some familiar issues. No doubt most of us have experienced cavities and maybe even gum disease at some point in our lives. These germs and bacteria can then spread and cause issues in other parts of the body.

Conditions Linked to Oral Health

Studies have looked at whether there is a link between poor oral health and cardiovascular disease. Their findings show that there are higher rates of cardiovascular disease in patients with gum disease and tooth loss.

Scientists do not fully understand the reason for this. Some theories suggest that bacteria infecting the gums travels to blood vessels in other parts of the body. This leads to inflammation and damage.

Other theories state that the body’s own immune response – inflammation – may start in the mouth and spread to other parts of the body, causing issues.

Whatever the reason, maintaining good oral and dental health is very important for our general health.

Dental Issues to Watch Out For and How to Solve Them

As we age, we become more prone to developing certain dental issues. Some of these occur simply because your teeth have been in use for a long time! Others can be prevented or treated with good dental care.

Gum Disease

Many older patients experience issues with gum diseases such as gingivitis and periodontitis. In fact, the CDC observes that over 70 percent of adults over 65 years of age have periodontal disease.

Reasons for this include smoking (64% of those affected) and plaque and tartar buildup. The good thing is that gingivitis and periodontal disease are preventable.

Gingivitis can be controlled with good regular oral hygiene and professional cleaning. Making a six-monthly dentist visit should be part of your regular dental care. Daily brushing and flossing keeps the bacteria that cause gingivitis at bay.

Periodontitis starts with gingivitis. If tartar forms below the gumline only a dentist or dental hygienist can remove this.

Removing the tartar can stop the process and stabilize the condition. Follow up with good oral care and regular dentist visits to help keep it in check.

Oral Cancer

As we age, our risk of developing oral cancer increases. Other risk factors include genetics, the HPV virus, and the use of alcohol and tobacco.

Some common symptoms include persistent mouth sores that do not heal, mouth pain, lumps or thickened areas in the cheek, and difficulty swallowing.

Typical treatment for oral cancer includes surgery, radiotherapy, and chemotherapy.

If you have any of these symptoms, it’s vital to see a dentist as soon as possible. A routine dental exam will pick up most oral cancers. Your dentist will arrange follow-ups as needed.

While none of us can prevent oral cancer, smoking and excessive alcohol consumption are risk factors. Cutting out both can reduce our chances of developing this disease.

Tooth Decay and Tooth Loss

As we age, our gums start to recede. This exposes the root of the tooth to decay. Because the root is not protected by enamel like the crown, it is more prone to decay.

Dry mouth is another age-related dental issue that can lead to cavities. When our mouth is dry, there is less saliva to wash away food debris. Bacteria can develop more easily.

Dry mouth is often a side effect of medications. Discuss the medications you are taking with your dentist. They will advise you on how to handle any dental issues that are side effects of the medication.

Gum disease is also a major factor in tooth loss. Following the preventative steps outlined earlier can help to protect you from tooth loss.

Other Questions About Dental Issues

These are just a few of the conditions that commonly affect older patients. Some consider whether dentures are needed or major changes to their oral hygiene habits.

Do I Need Dentures?

When periodontal disease becomes advanced, it may not be possible to reverse it. If you are experiencing the following symptoms, it would be good to discuss dentures with your dentist:

  • Persistent tooth pain
  • Loose or shifting teeth
  • Already have several missing teeth
  • Having difficulty chewing or eating hard food

If problems are caught early, it may be possible to explore other options. But if you’re living with daily pain, dentures may be the best solution.

Should My Oral Hygiene Habits Change?

While there are many factors affecting our oral health as we age, there are things that we can do. While we don’t need to incorporate anything new as part of our oral hygiene habits, we should make sure that we stick to a strict routine.

This should include:

  • Brushing twice a day at least, with a toothpaste that contains fluoride
  • Flossing daily
  • Using an antiseptic mouthwash at least once a day
  • See a dentist every six months
  • Have teeth cleaning from a dentist or hygienist every six months

The goal is to keep bacteria levels in the mouth at bay. Bacteria leads to plaque and tooth decay. It also causes gum disease, which can lead to tooth loss.

Maintaining Great Oral Health in Older Patients

Getting older does mean we’re more likely to face certain dental issues. But it doesn’t have to be the case. With strong oral hygiene habits and regular dentist visits, you can keep your teeth strong and healthy.

At Blue Haven dental, we provide patient-focused dental care for people of all ages. The goal of Dr. Ryan El-Majzoub, DMD is that all of our patients will feel comfortable and receive the highest quality treatment.

Click here to schedule an appointment today!