Senior Oral Dental Care
While a lot of attention gets paid to dental care for young children, there’s not enough discussion on an equally important area of dentistry, that is dental care for seniors. Just like other areas of health, as people age, our teeth and gums can start to deteriorate. Even minor ailments can quickly lead to severe health problems if not adequately cared for.
No matter what your age, having your teeth checked on a regular basis is important. But when you reach a certain threshold, you can start to encounter maladies that only afflict older patients, making dental care an even more critical part of your health regimen. Those who are over 55 years of age should take the time to have a frank conversation with your dentist to make sure you are aware of these problems and what can be done to prevent them.
At Jody Jones, DDS, we have the same goal for all of our patients no matter what their age: help them to maintain the habits and routines that will prevent dental problems and ensure they live a long, healthy life with a full set of teeth.
Why do older patients need to be extra careful of their dental health?
While everyone should be concerned about maintaining good oral health, seniors have to be especially careful when it comes to avoiding tooth decay and other maladies. This is because more and more studies are confirming the strong link between how healthy a person’s mouth is and the rest of their body. In fact, when a person is suffering some sort of ailment of the teeth and gums, it’s much more likely that they will also have accompanying health problems elsewhere.
There is strong evidence that indicates infections in the tooth or gums can be transmitted to other parts of the body, in particular to the lungs, heart, and brain. This is because bacteria rarely stays in one place, and since the mouth is an entry point to the rest of the body, it’s no wonder that what might at first seem like a minor affection can quickly spread. For older patients, even a simple flu or cough can have severe implications and lead to lingering health problems. They can’t afford to allow a minor tooth infection to compromise their overall health.
Malnutrition is another condition that seniors are more susceptible to then healthy adults. Not getting enough or the right nutrients can be exacerbated by cavities and other oral conditions, because when a person is in pain, they will be less likely to eat. When a person is failing to get adequate nutrition, it can quickly lead to other serious health problems, especially in older patients.
Also worrisome for elderly patients is a compromised immune system. Gum disease has been directly linked to a compromised immune system, making them more susceptible to other problems as well. Dentists are often the first to detect serious health conditions based on symptoms such as loose teeth or periodontal disease.
Finally, though we still don’t know the reason why, studies have shown that increased tooth decay or other oral ailments could be an indicator of cancer. For all these reasons and more, it’s imperative that senior citizens take their dental health really seriously.
What oral ailments must seniors be on the look out for?
As people age, it’s normal for certain parts of the body to experience more wear and tear and be more susceptible to infections. When it comes to oral healthcare, older patients need to be aware of a number of disorders that they will be in danger of suffering from if they aren’t careful. One example, which may not seem that serious, is that as you age, you may experience a decrease in your ability to taste foods. This could indicate a more worrisome condition that needs to be checked out
Another symptom older patients should be alert for is a darkening or discoloration of the teeth. Again, this might just be a sign of age, but it can frequently be a symptom of something worse. Also be on the look out for signs of periodontal disease. Also known as gum disease, this is a surefire indicator that your teeth are not in a healthy condition.
It’s also important to mention dry mouth, a common condition, especially for older people, that once again could be a warning of something more serious, such as Sjogren’s Syndrome.
How can dentures negatively impact your oral hygiene?
As a person ages, dentures become more and more likely as tooth loss becomes more common. While dentures are a great way to maintain your smile and avoid the negative perceptions associated with tooth loss, they also can pose some dangers if not properly cared for. Dentures can increase the likelihood of tooth decay in your remaining healthy teeth, so maintaining an extra rigorous health routine is imperative. Missing teeth can also cause your jawbone to become misaligned. Finally, in some cases, there’s an increased risk for stomatitis, thrush, fungal infections, and other ailments.
How can older patients maintain their oral health?
Once you reach a certain age, brushing once or twice a day is no longer enough. We recommend brushing, flossing, and rinsing after every meal. Don’t just concentrate on your teeth either, but also brush your gums, tongue, and the roof of your mouth. It’s critical that you prevent the build up of harmful bacteria.
It’s also more important than ever that you see your dentist on a regular basis. Every six months to a year is the recommended schedule, so that your dentist can look for and take care of problems before they become serious.
Your Nashville, Tennessee Geriatric Dentist Specialists
At Jody Jones, DDS, we understand that older patients have a lot to worry about when it comes to maintaining their health, and we want to make sure their teeth is not one of them. It’s never too late to form the right dental habits, and we work with senior patients to make sure they understand how their mouths will change as they age and what new routines should be added to keep them smiling.
Get in touch with one of our friendly staff members today to schedule your next appointment.