According to a recent survey by Procter & Gamble brands and AARP, seniors and baby boomers rank dental health among their top three medical concerns. “As age increases, so does an increase in oral health risks,” affirms Dr. Steven Goldberg, DDS and the Inventor of the DentalVibe. Here, Dr. Goldberg explains the three dental concerns for mature adults and offers tips on how to prevent a problem.
1) Tooth Decay/Cavities
Tooth decay is very common in people who reach their senior years. Many people in this age category experience dry mouth, a lack of saliva. This can be the result of a medical condition or from the medications they may be taking. Without the protective benefit of saliva, the teeth, as well as the roots of teeth, are more susceptible to rampant decay (cavities). When left untreated, pain is inevitable along with the possibility of infections and ultimate tooth loss.
To counter this condition, dentists recommend keeping your mouth as hydrated as possible, drink lots of water, rinse with saliva substitutes and take advantage of saliva stimulants such as sugar-free chewing gum and sugar-free hard candies.
2) Gum Disease
The direct result of poor oral hygiene is periodontal (gum) disease. It is a chronic condition that develops from the buildup of plaque which leads to infected, swollen, bleeding gums and the loss of the boney supporting structure of the teeth. When left untreated, teeth become mobile and either fall out or must be removed. The bacterial colonies that live within infected gums have been associated with complications of diabetes, stroke, heart disease and subsequent infections in the linings of the heart valves (endocarditis) which can be fatal.
Proper oral hygiene and regular hygiene visits can help limit or prevent these medical conditions. Also, ask your dentist about Chlorhexidine Gluconate, a mouth-rinse that is sometimes recommended to help prevent the buildup of bacterial plaque.
3) Tooth Loss
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, one quarter of adults over the age of 65 have lost all of their teeth. Tooth loss at any age is a serious concern, especially with seniors. Missing teeth creates a difficulty in chewing leading to poor digestion, and can also cause problems with your speech and your appearance. Although dentures have been the method of choice for the replacement of missing teeth for many years, they carry all sorts of problems of their own. More recently, dental implants have become the most advanced means of tooth replacement.
In many instances, a titanium implant (a root device) can be placed in the jaw which becomes integrated within the bone. Then a crown is installed on top, bringing back one or more solid, non-removable teeth. Ask your dentist if you are a candidate for this high tech procedure.