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Aging and Oral Health

Maintaining your oral health becomes more important as you age. Older adults often experience more health problems in general. Combined with the medications taken to manage these conditions, aging adults can experience a host of teeth and gum issues. However, with proper oral care, the aging population can enjoy a healthy smile well past retirement.

Oral Health Problems in Older Adults

As you age, your oral health needs become more specialized. Making regular visits to a Melbourne FL dentist can help keep the mouth and any remaining natural teeth healthy. Some of the most common oral health problems that can develop in older adults include:

  • Gum disease – According to the CDC, about 68 percent of adults aged 65 or older have gum disease and nearly 1 in 5 adults aged 65 or older have lost all of their teeth.
  • Tooth decay – Approximately 96 percent of all adults aged 65 or older have had at least one cavity and approximately 1 in 5 have untreated tooth decay.
  • Tooth loss – Complete loss of natural teeth is twice as common in adults older than 75 compared to adults aged 65 through 74.
  • Oral cancer – Cancers of the mouth, such as pharyngeal and oral cancers, are most commonly diagnosed in adults over age 62.
  • Dry mouth – Certain medications, inadequate nutrition, and changes in the body can all contribute to dry mouth in older adults.

Older adults who are disabled, institutionalized, or homebound are at a higher risk of developing poor oral health. Today, many older Americans do not have dental insurance due to losing their benefits when they retired. In addition, the federal Medicare program does not currently cover routine dental care. This can result in increased oral health problems and overall poor health and wellbeing.

Oral Health Tips for Seniors

Regardless of age, it is important to maintain a proper oral health routine that consists of daily brushing and flossing. Plaque can quickly accumulate on the teeth, especially if oral hygiene is continually neglected. In just a short amount of time, a lack of proper oral care can lead to problems. Issues can surface such as tooth decay and gum disease. For good oral health, older adults should practice:

  • Brushing two or more times per day with a fluoride-containing toothpaste
  • Flossing at least once per day
  • Rinsing with mouthwash at least once per day
  • Visiting with a Melbourne Florida dentist for an oral exam and cleaning

During an oral exam, you can expect your dentist to look at your teeth, gums, jaw, inner cheeks, tongue, and other interior surfaces for signs of discoloration or other concerns. If you wear dentures or another dental appliance, your dentist will check to ensure that it is in good condition. They will also inspect for any harm being done to delicate oral tissue.

Preventing Dental Disease

Some believe tooth loss, tooth pain, and similar dental problems are an inevitable side effect of aging. This simply is not true. Seniors can take control of their oral health and maintain a healthy and functional smile by taking simple precautions to prevent dental disease.

Start by adopting the right oral health techniques. Perhaps switching from a manual toothbrush to an electric toothbrush will help you achieve a better clean? There are also toothbrushes and floss aides designed for people with arthritis and similar conditions. Ask your dentist about products specifically formulated for the oral health problems you are experiencing, such as products for painful ulcers or dry mouth.

Many medications can negatively impact your saliva production. Without an adequate saliva flow, tooth decay, gum disease, and yeast infections in the mouth can develop. If you are currently taking any medications that are decreasing your saliva flow, talk to your health care provider about other medications you could try.

Schedule a Dental Teeth Cleaning

If you are concerned about the state of your mouth, start by scheduling a basic cleaning with a dentist in your area. Reach out to the dental experts at Artistic Touch Dentistry today to learn more about caring for your aging smile or to schedule an appointment.