Age is just a number.
I’m sure you’ve heard this old saying before, but is it true? Whether you’re 6 or 60, oral health problems plague us all. Surprisingly, the #1 oral health issue of both young children and seniors is the same.
Here are three common problems seniors encounter and how you can avoid them.
1. CAVITIES: OLDER ADULTS GET THEM, TOO
Though you may associate cavities with children chomping on candy, tooth decay is actually a common chronic disease in people 65 years old and up. Not long ago, most people had lost their original teeth by the age of 65. Adults are now keeping most of their teeth for a lifetime, but the risk for tooth decay can increase as root surfaces become exposed and dry mouth takes away the protective benefits of saliva. In addition, many older adults don’t go to the dentist as often as they used to so cavities sometimes go untreated for longer than they should. In fact, about 25 percent of adults 65 and older haven’t been to the dentist in five years. Keeping regular dentist appointments is the key to getting cavities treated in a timely manner.
2. DRY MOUTH ISN’T A SYMPTOM OF OLD AGE.
Many seniors are on multiple medications for a variety of chronic illnesses or conditions. A surprising number of medications, even simple ones such as decongestants, can cause dry mouth. Dry mouth is more than just a minor inconvenience – as its name indicates, the condition deprives the mouth of saliva which plays a critical role in preventing tooth decay. To help counter this, stay hydrated and limit your intake of caffeine and alcohol. Check with your physician or dentist if you think your medications are causing your mouth to feel dry.
3. GUM DISEASE AFFECTS ALL AGES
Gum disease affects people of all ages, but it typically becomes worse with increased age. Proper brushing and flossing can prevent gum disease. Seniors having trouble gripping a standard toothbrush should ask their dentist about modifying a handle for easier use. You may also want to consider a battery-powered toothbrush.
Hopefully you learned good dental habits as a child and made sure your children followed them as well. Just because you are now enjoying your golden years doesn’t mean you should stop these routines! You have kept your teeth in pretty good shape so far, so keep up the good work by following these tried and true tips:
- Brush teeth twice a day
- Floss daily
- Drink fluoridated water
- Use fluoridated toothpaste
- Avoid tobacco products
- Eat a healthy diet with minimal snacking on carbohydrates, sweets and sugary beverages
- Keep regular appointments with the dentist
If there’s anything on this checklist that hasn’t been part of your oral health routine before, it’s never too late to start!