Dental Problems of Seniors

female hormones and gum disease

Do seniors automatically have more dental problems? As you age you probably don’t think about how your body is changing. Okay…that’s not true. You notice your aches and pains, but did you realize that your teeth and gums are aging too? You need to take special care of your body as it gets older, and that goes for your teeth, as well. You may think that as you age it’s natural to begin losing teeth, but that’s not true. Our teeth are meant to last a lifetime, but they need proper care, and as you age they may need a little extra TLC. The majority of the time, tooth loss is due to periodontal disease which is most commonly due to poor dental hygiene. Long term chewing difficulties are common with tooth loss. If you are experiencing tooth loss, or suspect you may have periodontal disease, contact us, to discuss dental care for older adults and appropriate treatment options.

Aging seniors often have dental problems as a side effect from other issues

Your bones, your mind, your muscles, even your skin and eyes age, and your gums and teeth all age. An aging oral cavity often presents seniors with a unique set of oral health problems. Unfortunately, as your body ages, things begin to go wrong. With age comes various health issues such as diabetes, heart disease, arthritis, cancer, and even dementia, and many of these diseases have been linked with periodontal disease which also develops as you age. Your overall health has a dramatic influence on your dental health.

  • Diabetes: Chronic diseases such as diabetes tend to create a higher risk for gum disease. Because their bodies are unable to process sugar correctly, they have higher sugar levels in their saliva.  Harmful oral bacteria feed on the sugars producing plaque. Left untreated plaque turns into hard-to-remove tartar which can progress to periodontal disease, resulting in tooth loss.
  • Cancer: People fighting cancer need to take special care of their teeth due to the effects of chemotherapy medications which can promote tooth decay.

Side effects of Medications that seniors take cause dental problems

Seventy percent of Americans take prescription drugs. Nine out of ten adults over the age of sixty take at least one. Several types of medications can be rough on your oral health including aspirin, antacids, cholesterol, and chemotherapy medications. Some oral health risks from medications include:

    • Dry mouth: Caused by a decrease in saliva, often a side effect of medications.
    • A decreased sense of taste: Medications can contribute to sensory loss of the taste buds.
    • Dental staining or darkening of the teeth: Caused by years of eating stain-causing foods and beverages.
    • Thrush: An overgrowth of Candida albicans–a type of oral fungus–can be triggered by medications that affect the immune system.
    • Cavities and root decay: When the root becomes exposed due to aging gums, or medications, it is left vulnerable to decay.
    • Gingivitis
    • Periodontal disease
    • Weakening or deterioration of the alveolar (jaw bone).
    • Tooth loss: Due to gum disease or deterioration of the jaw bone.
    • Oral cancer

Demographics of dental problems of seniors

  • In 2003, 52 percent of adults over the age of 65 had most of their natural teeth.
  • In the 1950’s, over 50 percent of adults over age 65 had lost all their teeth.
  • The higher the income and education level, the lower the percentage of tooth loss in adults over 65.
    • 41.1% of people with less than a high school education lost all their teeth.
    • 7.1% of college graduates lost all their teeth.
    • 35.9% with an income under $15,000 lost all their teeth.
    • 6.7% with an income over $50,000 lost all their teeth.

Although age itself is not the sole determinant of a person’s oral health, certain illnesses, diseases, and conditions that come with aging can be. For instance, arthritis or other upper-body mobility issues can make it hard for people to brush and floss. Dementia can affect oral health habits, and according to the statistics above income and education level. Learn more about dental health changes with age.

Seniors have a harder time getting regular dental visits

People aged sixty and above should be especially diligent regarding their oral health. Good oral hygiene is a must. At a minimum, they should brush twice a day, floss, and use an anti-bacterial mouth rinse. They should also visit their dentists for dental preventative care regularly. Seniors tend to have more dental problems if their oral hygiene declines with arthritis related dexterity issues. Regular visits are beneficial even if you wear dentures. A poorly fitted denture can cause many other oral health issues including oral cancer.

Learn more about the dental problems of seniors

Aside from providing expert general and cosmetic dentistry services to our community, Dr. James Fondriest also holds highly-respected academic appointments at the Pankey Institute in Key Biscayne, FL, and the Spear Institute in Scottsdale, AZ, and he is a former  Adjunct Assistant Professor in the Department of Prosthodontics at the University of Florida Dental School. At Lake Forest Dental Arts, Dr. Fondriest combines his impressive array of experience with modern technology and caring, compassionate, and knowledgeable staff, and we proudly serve patients from all surrounding communities. To schedule your consultation, call our office today at (847) 234-0517.