Common Dental Health Problems Among Seniors
Seniors tend to have higher rates of many oral health conditions, including:
- Tooth loss
- Cracked teeth
- Oral cancer
- Root caries
The Reason Seniors Have So Many Dental Health Issues
All of these issues tend to happen because seniors undergo many physical changes that affect their mouth. Here are examples of some of the most common causes of senior dental problems.
- Dry Mouth: The glands that produce saliva atrophy with age, so seniors do not have enough saliva to wash away bacteria and protect their mouth.
- Impaired Mobility: Difficulty moving and doing daily tasks due to arthritis and other problems makes it hard for seniors to regularly brush their teeth.
- Cognitive Impairment: Seniors with dementia and other mental health issues may not remember to care for their teeth.
- Worn Enamel: Enamel wears thin after years of chewing, so it becomes more brittle and cannot easily protect teeth.
- Gum Recession: Gum tissues deteriorate with age, so they can recede until the soft root of the tooth is exposed.
- Poor Nutrition: If seniors do not get enough calcium because they cannot properly feed themselves, the body leaches calcium from the teeth to protect the bones.
Things Dentists Need to Consider When Working With Aging Patients
Treating seniors is not the same as helping other patients. If you or a loved one is a senior with oral problems, it is important to find a dentist who is aware of all the complexities involved with senior dentistry. To provide the best care, dentists need to be aware of the following issues.
Seniors typically have a few medications they take each day, and some of these can affect dental health. If the dentist is planning on doing any procedures that involve anesthesia, they need to be aware of how a senior's medications may impact the procedure.
Denture and Implant Care
One in five seniors have lost all their teeth, and most have some other form of tooth loss. Therefore, the dentist needs to be comfortable providing care for denture wearers. They may need to know how to fit the senior for new dentures or suggest ways to maintain oral hygiene while wearing dentures.
General Health Concerns
Some other health concerns, like high blood pressure and diabetes, have a big influence on oral health. Dentists who treat older patients need to know how these health conditions can affect dental health, so they can help their patients find strategies for maintaining oral health.
Anxiety and Confusion
One of the most common reasons seniors avoid going to the dentist is due to anxiety and stress about the entire experience. To properly treat their older patients, dentists need to have the ability to soothe anxious patients. They may also want to work with their staff to create an environment comfortable for seniors.
Dental Services That Improve Oral Health for Seniors
There are some unique challenges associated with senior dentistry, but fortunately, there are plenty of dentists devoted to senior care. Those who specialize in the field of elderly dentistry have plenty of experience providing the following services.
Cleanings are an essential part of senior tooth care. They help to clear away plaque and tartar before it builds up and causes a lot of damage in the senior's mouth. Most people wait six months between cleanings, but seniors who struggle to clean their teeth at home can benefit from more frequent cleanings every three to four months.
Properly fitting dentures greatly improve a senior's quality of life. Both general dentists and prosthodontists may specialize in this area of dentistry. To ensure that seniors get comfortable and well-fitting dentures, the dentist may need to take in-depth measurements of the senior's mouth and adjust dentures to fit the senior's unique needs.
Fluoride applications are not just for children. They can actually be helpful for all populations at risk of tooth decay, so they are a great tool for caring for senior's teeth. This simple treatment usually just involves coating the senior's teeth in fluoride, so they can absorb the minerals and strengthen the enamel.
Patient and Caregiver Education
A huge part of improving senior oral health is just education. Dentists for seniors have to work hard to overcome the stereotype that tooth loss is unavoidable in old age. They may schedule extra time for senior appointments so that they can explain tooth care methods. Many dentists will work with both the senior and any caregivers the senior has to help them find strategies for taking care of their teeth at home.
Satisfy Your Elderly Dentistry Needs at East Valley Dental Professionals
East Valley Dental Professionals is happy to provide dental services for the seniors of Mesa, Arizona. We are sensitive to the special needs of our older patients, and our talented dentists and hygienists have plenty of experience working with the unique dental problems seniors face. Schedule an appointment now to get started on your journey to a stronger, brighter smile.