As we age, so do our teeth and gums. Decades of chewing, grinding, gnashing, and more can lead to a long list of oral health problems. Keeping your mouth healthy as an older adult can be challenging; the process of aging and certain health conditions make you more vulnerable to dental problems, and it’s not always easy to find the time, money, or means to visit your dentist. Let’s check out some of the top dental problems in older adults and what you can do to prevent, treat, and manage them.
Tooth decay, which is caused by a buildup of plaque and tartar, can cause pain, infection, and even tooth loss. Certain lifestyle habits, including a sugary diet and the tendency to snack between meals, can contribute to the buildup of sugar and acid in the mouth. Medical conditions that impact your ability to care for your teeth, including arthritis and dementia, can also contribute to tooth decay. Prevention is the best approach. Brush your teeth twice a day with fluoride toothpaste, decrease the number of sugary foods in your diet, and drink water after every meal. If you’re struggling to clean your teeth, an electric toothbrush can make the process easier and more effective. If you’re still worried about tooth decay, you can talk to your dentist about using a fluoride rinse, getting fillings and crowns, and other treatments.
The bacteria in plaque and tartar can cause gum disease, also called periodontal disease. In the later stages of gum disease, you might experience symptoms like irritated, red, and bleeding gums. Gingivitis is the inflammation if the gums due to bacteria buildup where the teeth meet gum tissue. It can develop into periodontitis, which is a serious gum infection that damages the gum tissue and the bone supporting your teeth. Fortunately, gum disease is preventable through proper dental care, which includes brushing and flossing daily. If you’re experiencing signs of gum disease, consider booking an appointment with your dentist. They can provide a detailed assessment and come up with a treatment plan for the disease.
Another top dental problem in older adults is dry mouth. It isn’t directly caused by aging, but older populations are more likely to take medications that include dry mouth as a side effect. When you have a reduced saliva production, sugars and acids start to build up in the mouth. This leads to an increased chance of cavities, and it can also cause dry, cracked lips and a swollen tongue. To avoid the negative consequences of dry mouth, make sure to regularly drink water and avoid sugary food and drinks. Using a mouth rinse can prevent the buildup of sugars of acids, and, to stimulate saliva production, you can try chewing on gum or using cough drops.