Why Do Seniors Need Dental Care?
Good senior dental care may prevent common dental and oral health issues like cavities, toothaches, gum disease, oral cancer, and tooth loss. A healthy mouth and teeth also help seniors enjoy food and even eat better. Learn why it’s key to make dental health for seniors a priority and how to help your aging loved one improve their dental and oral health.
As people age, it’s not uncommon for many to get lax with their daily oral and dental health routines. Adhering to daily dental health regimes can sometimes seem like too much for older adults. Many just forget to partake in daily dental and oral hygiene. Since dental health is linked to whole-body wellness and health, it’s vital that we discuss and remind our aging loved ones that poor dental and oral health is associated with bodily diseases that they don’t want to get.
It’s important that seniors practice daily oral hygiene so they don’t develop dry mouth, a common side effect that’s easy to contract from over-the-counter medications. A dry mouth reduces saliva production, which makes it easier for bacteria to grow and damage their teeth and gums.
Daily Dental Care is Vital for Seniors
Even dental issues like gum disease can directly impact the overall health of seniors and need to be taken seriously. It’s just as vital for older adults to care for their teeth and gums as it is for their heart health, blood pressure, arthritis, digestive health, and so on.
Medical conditions like severe arthritis can make brushing or flossing teeth and gums difficult to do. Additionally, some seniors are genetically predisposed to dental and periodontal issues more than others. So if seniors forget to brush and floss daily, a certain percentage will develop more serious dental issues than others.
Other Reasons Dental Health is Vital for Seniors
Stained or Darkened Teeth
As seniors age, dentin, a bone-like tissue underneath the enamel layer of our teeth, begins to change due to the foods and beverages we eat and drink. A combination of staining due to a lifetime of smoking, drinking coffee, tea, or soft drinks affects the enamel by thinning the outer enamel, which causes the teeth to stain and darken.
Ill-fitting dentures, poor dental hygiene, or a buildup of plaque can cause inflammation of the tissue underlying dentures.
Studies show that there is an association between periodontal diseases like gingivitis or gum disease and heart disease. According to the American Heart Association, gum disease can increase your likelihood of a heart attack, stroke, high cholesterol, and other heart conditions. This means that proper oral hygiene and dental care is vital to preventing heart conditions.
Poor oral and dental health has also been linked to pneumonia in seniors. Since air has to pass through the mouth and throat to enter the lungs, seniors can easily inhale bacteria into their lungs. Older adults are more prone to pneumonia due to weak immune systems when compared to younger adults. Daily oral hygiene is the best way to prevent building up bacteria, which could manifest into pneumonia.
Gum disease is also known as periodontitis can limit the body’s ability to use insulin. Additionally, high blood sugar – a common side effect of diabetes – can cause gum infections. This is another reason why daily oral is vital and regular dental checkups can prevent periodontitis.
One of the most common reasons for gum disease and tooth loss is poor oral hygiene. Daily oral hygiene removes plaque, the hard, bacterial substance that builds up on, between teeth and under gums. Seniors can also contract gum disease via a poor diet, tobacco use, ill-fitting bridges or dentures, and diseases like anemia, cancer, and diabetes.
Dry mouth is a common side effect of many over-the-counter and prescription medications that seniors take. Other reasons for dry mouth include cancer treatments that focus on the head and neck areas. Saliva production is also key as it keeps the mouth wet and prevents infections by limiting the formation of bacteria and viruses in the mouth.
Root decay is another frequent issue in seniors that result in several conditions. Foods with a high acid content reduce the enamel of teeth and can cause gums to recede. When gums recede, the roots of teeth may be exposed, and because the roots don’t have a protective enamel layer, they can easily decay.
Improving Dental Care in Seniors
It only makes good sense that brushing and flossing at least twice a day positively impacts our oral health yet there are other ways to maintain proper oral health. Here are some practical tips from the American Dental Association:
- Brush twice a day with a soft-bristle toothbrush and fluoride-containing toothpaste
- Use an electric toothbrush as it’s easy to use and more effective at removing plaque.
Clean between your teeth once a day with floss or another interdental cleaner like a Waterpik
- Rinse with an antiseptic mouthwash once or preferably twice a day
- If you wear full or partial dentures, remember to clean them on a daily basis
Drink tap water, which contains fluoride as it helps prevent tooth decay
Quit smoking as you’re at greater risk for gum disease, tooth decay, tooth loss, lung cancers, and other cancers
- iVisit the dentist twice a year for routine cleaning and oral exams.
- Eat a healthy, well-balanced diet that includes dairy and high-fiber foods.
Daily brushing and flossing are essential to have healthy teeth, gums, and mouth. Plaque can build up quickly, especially if oral hygiene is absent, which will almost always lead to tooth decay and gum disease.
What Seniors Can Expect During a Dental Exam
If you’re a senior headed for a check-up, your dentist should conduct a thorough history and dental exam. Questions asked during a dental history should include:
- The date of your last dental visit and the reason for the visit
- Have you noticed any recent changes in your mouth?
- Have you noticed any loose or sensitive teeth?
- Have you noticed any difficulty tasting, chewing, or swallowing?
- Have you felt any pain, discomfort, sores, or bleeding in your mouth?
- Have you noticed any lumps, bumps, or swellings in your mouth?
During a senior’s oral exam, he or she’s dentist will check the following: your face and neck (for skin discoloration, moles, sores); your bite (for any issues in how the teeth come together while opening and closing your mouth); your jaw (for signs of clicking and popping in the temporomandibular joint); your lymph nodes and salivary glands (for any sign of swelling or lumps); your inner cheeks (for infections, ulcers, traumatic injuries); your tongue and other interior surfaces like the floor of the mouth, soft and hard palate, gum tissue (for signs of infection or oral cancer); and your teeth (for decay, condition of fillings, and cracks).
If seniors wear dentures, their dentist will ask questions about when they wear their dentures and when they take them out. They will also look for irritation or problems in the areas in the mouth that the appliance touches, and examine the denture or appliance itself to look for broken areas.
Maintaining Senior Dental Checkups on Tight Budgets
Dr. Ruiz recognizes that treating the entire family means everyone will have a radiant smile. She knows having a tighter budget shouldn’t prevent you from having great oral health and healthy teeth.
Dr. Ruiz prides herself on offering affordable prices that fit everyone’s budget. She is happy to work with all her patients’ situations and does so with an expertly trained staff and some of the most modern state-of-the-art technology available today. Contact a dentist today.
Ruiz is known for her passion for dentistry, and her ability to offer her patients beautiful smiles. She opened Rightway Dental because she believes in practicing dentistry the “right way.”
She also believes in providing preventive and comprehensive healthcare to all of her patients. Not only does Dr. Ruiz practice optimum dental care, but she is also known for her friendly, tender, and caring approach that puts her patients at ease.
Dr. Ruiz is gentle and believes in providing preventive and comprehensive dental care to all of her patients. Not only does Dr. Ruiz practice optimum dental care, but she is also known for her friendly, tender, and caring approach that puts her patients at ease no matter their age.
Rightway Dental offers complete dental care to patients in the Katy and Fulshear area. We offer regular checkups, preventative care, restoration therapy, and orthodontic services including braces. Our goal is to make your dental experience comfortable and easy while maintaining your oral and overall health.
Dr. Ruiz has amazing reviews from her patients that emphasize what an incredible dentist she is, how gentle and comfortable she makes her patients, and how friendly and helpful her staff is. Many testimonials state Dr. Ruiz is both personable and professional, and they’re pleased with the treatment she recommends.