Sunday, January 11, 2015

Common Dental Problems Facing Seniors

As We Age...
  • Darken teeth : are caused by changes in the dentin which is the tissue under the enamel.  This is often the result of consuming staining beverages, foods, or tobacco over the years.
  • A diminished sense of taste: is caused by dentures, medications or diseases.
  • Xerostomia  (Dry mouth): is caused by decrease flow of saliva, and it is often the result of head & neck radiation therapy.  There are other various diseases and medications that can also cause dry mouth leading to dental problems such as Caries (decay) & Halitosis (Bad Breath).
  • Periodontal Disease (Gum disease) : is caused by plaque buildup on the teeth, and it is worsened when food is left on the teeth.  Tobacco products, poor diet and dentures that do  not fit can also contribute.  Diseases such as cancer, anemia, diabetes and several others may contribute to gum disease.
  • Tooth loss : is caused by Periodontal Disease (Gum disease).
  • Root Caries (decay) : is usually caused when the gingiva (gum tissue) recedes, roots become exposed to acids that cause breakdown & leading to cavities
  • Resorbed/Atrophic Ridge : (An uneven jawbone) is often caused by tooth loss.
  • Thrush: is caused by a buildup of Candida fungus, which is often the result of drugs or diseases that effect the immune system.
  • Denture- induced stomatitis: is caused by ill fitting dentures, a buildup of Candida fungus or poor oral hygiene.
Age is not always the main factor for determining oral health.  Some people who are in their 70's have healthier teeth and gums than people who are in their 20's who have bad genes.  Some medical conditions that are related to age may affect how a person performs oral hygiene tasks.  For example, a person with arthritis in the hands may find it more difficult to brush & floss regularly.

Oral Hygiene Tips for Senior Citizens :
Daily brushing is essential, and seniors should try to floss every day to prevent food buildup between teeth.  If oral hygiene is neglected, plaque will quickly build up and start eroding the enamel.  The following tips are helpful:
  • Brush twice a day with fluoridated toothpaste
  • Routine visits (~3mos,4mos, or 6mos, as recommended by the dentist ).
  • Floss daily
  • Use antimicrobial mouth rinses to prevent plaque buildup which may lead to caries (decay) & periodontal disease (gum disease).
Dental Exam:

A dentist will screen for oral cancer (check the face , tongue, neck, lymph nodes, & jaw), and check your occlusion (bite) and dentition (teeth) during the exam.  A dentist should ask the following details:
  • The date of the last oral exam.
  • The reason for the last appointment.
  • If the patients has noticed any sensitive or loose teeth.
  • If the patient has noticed changes in the mouth.
  • If the patient has noticed a diminished sense of taste.
  • If the patient has had difficulty swallowing, chewing, or tasting.
  • If the patient has bumps, swelling or lumps in the mouth.
  • If the patient has discomfort, sores, or bleeding in the mouth.
* Dentist will also look for signs of irritation in the mouth and examine the appliances (dentures, partials, bridges...) themselves for problems.

Dental Financial Aid For Seniors:

If a senior is on a limited or fixed income, it can be difficult to afford dental care.  Many professionals offer services at reduced process for seniors with help of society/community-sponsored programs.  The best way to find a relevant information is to contact the local dental society.

No comments: