Dental Care for Seniors (65+)
The following content was submitted and authored by the dental experts at NewMouth…
After the age of 65, new oral challenges are introduced as the body continues to age. Common conditions that affect seniors include dry mouth, oral cancer, root decay, and gum diseases. Although, active aging alone is not a risk for the development of oral diseases. Oral health also affects digestion, speech, nutrition, self-esteem, quality of life, and social mobility.
Common conditions and diseases that affect people over 65 include:
Bad Breath & Dry Mouth
Bad breath can be caused by tobacco use, poor nutrition, excessive coffee or alcohol consumption, medications, not brushing teeth regularly, and dry mouth. As people age, bad breath and dry mouth are more likely to develop, even if the individual has brushed and flossed regularly their entire life.
Dry mouth occurs when the production of saliva in the mouth decreases. This condition naturally occurs during sleep, which leads to bad “morning breath.” Older people who sleep with their mouths open or snore often are also more likely to experience dry mouth. Causes of chronic dry mouth include:
- Prescription medications
- Certain diseases
- Problems with the salivary glands
- Radiation to the head and neck (cancer treatment)
Depending on the condition’s severity, there are many natural ways to reduce bad breath, including:
- Chewing sugar-free gum
- Limiting caffeine intake
- Taking over-the-counter saliva substitutes
- Avoiding decongestant or antihistamine medications
- Stopping all tobacco use
- Breathing through the nose, rather than the mouth
- Avoiding sugary foods and drinks Visiting the dentist regularly (twice per year)
- Using fluoride
Teeth stain naturally over the course of a person’s life. These surface stains are the clearest indicators of tooth discoloration. The bumps, grooves, and “holes” in teeth pick up the stains, which results in darkening, white streaks, yellowing, or discoloration. Tooth color is dependent on an individual’s lifestyle, diet, habits, and oral care practices. Teeth also darken due to a natural aging process, which involves a thickening of the core structure inside a tooth called dentin. This causes an overall yellowing of the teeth as we age. Teeth whitening is a common treatment used to fix discolored teeth.
Factors that may affect tooth color include:
- Tobacco use
- Excessive fluoride use
- Hormone changes
Tooth Decay & Tooth Loss
If dental cavities are left untreated for a long period of time, more serious oral conditions or diseases may result, such as decay, tooth loss, or periodontal disease. When teeth fall out or need to be extracted due to extreme decay or gum disease, common restorative treatment options include:
After an extraction or tooth loss, an implant is commonly used to replace the permanent tooth. A dental implant, also known as an artificial tooth root, is placed in a patient’s jawbone. In short, the implant mirrors the shape of a screw and bonds with the natural bone.
A dental bridge is a fixed (permanent) restoration used to replace one or more missing teeth in a patient’s dental arch. In more serious cases, multiple bridges can be positioned to provide full mouth rehabilitation.
When a person loses all or some of their natural teeth from tooth decay, gum disease, or an injury, dentures are placed to restore some chewing functions and esthetics.
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John D. Miller is the founder/owner of Home Care Partners, LLC, a Massachusetts business providing private duty, personalized in-home assistance and companion care services to those needing help in daily activities and household functions.
Phone: (781) 378-2164