Many factors unique to "seasoned citizens" can make them more susceptible to a host of dental maladies. Specialized maintenance and treatment procedures may be needed to aid in attaining the best quality of life.
The primary causes for dental concerns in senior citizens are [slow-down or malfunction of] body systems, poor nutrition, medications, loss of manual dexterity, and tooth wear. Some or all of these can be interrelated. Xerostomia is lack of saliva flow. This is due to age, medical conditions (Sjogrens Syndrome), smoking, and some medications. Decreased saliva flow results in high susceptibility to cavities and periodontal disease. Your dentist may recommend prescription rinses with fluoride or chlorhexidine antibacterial, artificial saliva, sugarless lemon drops to stimulate saliva glands, or talking with your physician to possibly change medications.
Excessive tooth wear and stain occurs with time. Teeth will be unsightly, less efficient chewing, hypersensitive or even abcess. Your dentist may recommend fillings, crowns, or removing/replacing the teeth in some fashion. Periodontal disease can run rampant in seniors. This is due to smoking, poor hygiene from inability to brush and floss well, poor diet, decreased saliva or medical conditions (diabetes, Sjogrens syndrome). Periodontal disease is the most common cause of tooth loss in adults. Your dentist may recommend more frequent appointments, electric toothbrush, prescription rinses, nutritional counseling or referral to a specialist.
Root cavities are more prevalent in seniors due to gum recession combined with the other factors discussed above. Loss or alteration of taste occurs due to lack of saliva flow, increased bacteria or fungus in mouth, taste buds decreased function, medications, poor oral hygiene, and dentures. Most of these factors can be addressed by prescription rinses, electric toothbrush, increased water intake, and proper care of dentures.
Angular Cheilitis is the corners of the mouth being inflamed or infected. Often this is caused by drooping of the cheeks to increase folds, moisture trapped within, and possibly fungal infection in these areas. Local medication can help, as well as good dental work.
Osteoporosis is a condition resulting in loss of calcium and bone mass. This can affect the jawbones as well as other bones of the body. Proper nutrition and, if necessary, supplements can be used to combat this. You can see that seniors may be afflicted with many dental problems. Solutions to these can include increased water intake, saliva substitutes, nutrition counseling including vitamins, fluoride or antibacterial prescription rinses, use of an electric toothbrush, more frequent dental visits (even if you have dentures), sugarless lemon drops, restoring teeth with good dental work, relining dentures or new dentures, taking dentures out for a few hours a day, and replacing teeth with dental implants for better comfort and function.
Dental implants are an excellent way to replace missing teeth. Implants are titanium root-form cylinders placed into the jawbone. Restorations on these implants can be cemented crowns and bridges, or removable dentures with attachments to snap onto the implants for retention. These implants will make a huge improvement in chewing, aesthetics and confidence.
Seeing a dentist regularly is a great first step on your way to restoring and maintaining good dental health. For further information on any of the above, please call your dentist.