The number of aging patients at dental offices has been steadily increasing in recent years. At the same time, seniors are keeping their natural teeth longer and fewer patients are wearing dentures. Because the senior population will continue to swell as baby boomers reach the age of retirement, dental professionals are adapting their practices to meet the needs of older patients like you.
Dentists must take into account the reduced mobility and dexterity of some seniors, which may make routine oral hygiene practices difficult. Your existing medical conditions and treatments are also an important factor in determining dental care.
You may be unfamiliar with current dental practices and choose not to seek dental care for dental problems like toothache remedies, bleeding gums and improperly fitted dentures, but it's important that you do. There are many dental technologies now available to help make dental treatment of common problems more comfortable and less time-consuming.
Your oral health is an important component of your overall health, so it's even more important for you to visit the dentist regularly and maintain good dental health as you age. Because tooth decay is more likely to occur in older adults, it is important to brush and floss regularly to remove dental plaque that could cause periodontal disease, thus reducing the possibility of needing costly gum disease treatment.
Using fluoride is one of the most effective ways to strengthen teeth and prevent harmful acids from causing tooth decay: It promotes the absorption of calcium and phosphorus into the tooth enamel, which helps to repairs weak spots. Most towns and cities have fluoridated tap water, which provides an adequate source of fluoride. If your tap water is not fluoridated, speak with your dentist about other sources of fluoride.
What to Watch Out For
If you have certain medical conditions and are taking medications, you may be experiencing reduced saliva flow, which can be caused by antihistamines, decongestants, painkillers and diuretics. This condition is known as dry mouth syndrome. Dry mouth can cause a constant sore throat, trouble speaking and swallowing and dry nasal passages.
Chewing or sucking on sugar-free candy and gum are good ways to stimulate saliva flow. However, if you do not have adequate saliva to wash the food debris and acids off your teeth, dry mouth can also lead to tooth decay. It is important that you tell your dentist if you notice any of these symptoms.
As you age, you may also notice that you are losing your appetite for certain foods because of a weakened sense of taste. Age, certain diseases, medications and dentures can all impact your taste buds. Speak with your dentist if you notice decreasing taste bud sensitivity.
You may also notice that your teeth are becoming darker as you age. This is usually caused by dental plaque buildup, which occurs more rapidly with age. Good oral hygiene and regular dental visits are the best ways to manage dental plaque build up and keep your teeth white.
In addition to regular dental visits and good oral hygiene, speak with your dentist if you notice any of the following:
- Loose or chipped teeth
- A change in the fit of dentures
- Dry, cracked, swollen or blistered lips
- Bleeding gums
- Red, swollen or tender gums
- Gums pulling away from teeth
- Pus around teeth near the gum line
- Difficulty chewing