What dental problems could I face as I grow older?

Gum Recession and root decay:

Without good care, gums can shrink downwards, exposing the roots of teeth. The exposed area decays easily and develops root caries. This condition may lead to pain and sensitivity.

Worn out surfaces

The outer surface or enamel of the teeth can wear away due to aggressive brushing, the use of a hard toothbrush or an abrasive toothpaste. Worn out enamel affects appearance and strength of teeth, besides being painful. Consult your dentist about this.

Changes in eating habits

Some older adults adopt new eating habits with increased frequency of consuming sugary foods and drinks e.g. drinking sugared tea/coffee throughout the day. These habits can also have ill effects on the teeth, increasing the chance of dental decay.

Dry Mouth

Saliva is a neutral mouthwash. If an illness or medication leaves your mouth dry, you are more prone to decay and gum problems. Report oral dryness to your dentist.

Discolored teeth

Certain lifestyle habits like smoking, paan/beetle-nut chewing, and excessive tea/coffee consumption can cause your teeth to stain. Additionally, tobacco, alcoholic drinks and beetle-nut may cause gum disease, tooth loss and mouth cancer.

Your mouth and teeth require the same amount of quality health care as the rest of your system. Moreover, taking care of your oral health (mouth and teeth) is as important to seniors as it is to kids. Neglecting your oral health can be a potential road to developing totally unnecessary diseases within your system. Regular visits to the dentist and dental intervention when the problems are still “teething” is a far more cost effective and less painful solution to your problems, which also helps you to preserve your teeth longer, rather than waiting for the problem to get out of hand before seeking dental advice.

Preventive dentistry for seniors

Prevention is the key to maintaining good oral health. Knowing what particular dental problems you are at risk of developing and how you can reduce that risk will help you to decide the most appropriate means to prevent these dental problems. As you progress from adolescence to adulthood and into your senior years, your susceptibility to various dental problems changes. Your risk factors are unique, and unless you have a thorough understanding of what they are you cannot adequately protect yourself.

Disease risk factors and dental care

There are a number of risk factors that predispose seniors to higher rates of tooth decay and subsequent tooth loss than any other segment of our society. First and foremost is the fact that as we age the nerve tissue in our teeth decreases steadily. This substantially reduces our ability to sense the early signs of tooth decay. There is usually no pain or discomfort until considerable damage has occurred.

The second predisposing condition is gum recession. As the gums recede there is more tooth surface to maintain. This newly exposed surface is not covered by enamel, making it more susceptible to tooth decay than other parts of the teeth. The tooth also has an irregular surface; there are grooves and concavities where the roots join one another, further complicating daily brushing.

Finally, a change in the amount or consistency of saliva, a common complaint of older patients, causes debris to stagnate between teeth, at the edges of restorations, or at the gum line, adding yet another risk factor for tooth decay in seniors.

Causes for concern

Cavities/tooth decay: No matter how old you are, your natural teeth can still get cavities. Improper cleaning and gum diseases lead to decay. In addition to brushing, using fluoride gel, mouthwash and toothpaste will help protect your teeth from decay.

Dentures (false teeth)

As we age, our mouth changes in shape and dentures need to be adjusted or replaced. Remember that dentures, whether they are partial or full, require the same careful cleaning as your natural teeth.

Dental implants

Dental implants are small metal pieces that hold false teeth or partial dentures in place. Only a dentist can determine if you should have dental implants.

Dry mouth

Diseases and medical conditions (such as radiation therapy) can cause dr6y mouth, which makes it difficult to eat, swallow, and speak.

Oral cancer

People over 40 are at greater risk for oral cancer. Treatment is most effective with early detection. Even if you have no teeth of your own, a dentist should examine your mouth for oral cancer.

Gum disease

Infections that harm your gum and the bone that holds your teeth in place are called gum disease. The medical name is periodontal or gingival disease. If your gums are swollen and bleed easily, you may have a condition called gingivitis. Infections, if they aren’t treated, will cause your teeth to loosen and fall out. Some early warning signs of impending gum disease are: Red, swollen or tender gums. Gums that bleed while brushing, pus between teeth and gums, change in the way teeth fit together, loose or shifting teeth, bad breath or bad taste. Advanced gum disease referred to as periodontitis may require surgery to save teeth.

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