The aging process causes a decline in the health of many parts of the body, including the mouth. In this post, find out what oral health-related changes to expect as you age, from the team at Northfield Dental Group.
According to the American Dental Association, 30 percent of dental patients ages 65 and older suffer from xerostomia (dry mouth). The ADA explains that this is most likely due to the use of certain medications common for ailments of older adults, as well as medical conditions like diabetes and Alzheimer’s disease.
Dry mouth isn’t simply a nuisance, it can have adverse effects on your oral health. Saliva helps to fight bacteria and neutralize acids in your mouth. When you produce less-than-normal amounts of saliva, your risk of tooth decay or gum disease increases.
The risk of developing oral cancer increases with age. The American Cancer Society predicts approximately 54,010 people will get oral cavity and oropharyngeal cancers in 2021, and more than 10,000 people will die of the cancers. The average age of a patient diagnosed with oral cancers is 62.
Tooth loss is prevalent among older adults. According to the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research, adults over the age of 65 have an average of 18.90 remaining teeth (out of 32). Over 27 percent of adults over age 65 have no remaining teeth. Tooth loss can occur due to decay, oral cancer or the effects of wear.
Gum disease is also to blame for many cases of tooth loss. Often painless in its early stages, gum disease causes gum recession and the formation of pockets around the teeth where bacteria can accumulate. Advanced gum disease destroys not just the gums but also the bone and ligament holding teeth in place.
As you get older, the gum tissue hugging your teeth naturally starts to pull back from your teeth, exposing more of a tooth’s crown as well as its roots, which are not covered with protective enamel. This puts both the crown and root surface at risk of cavities.
Promoting Oral Health in Older Adults
The team at Northfield Dental Group is closely attuned to the dental needs of all of our patients, including our senior patients. We encourage you to follow good at-home oral care and see us regularly for exams. We perform oral cancer screenings and check for cavities and gum disease at every exam; when these problems are caught early, we can immediately begin treatment. We also offer a variety of tooth replacement options when tooth loss does occur.
Many of our senior patients tell us they have difficulty brushing and flossing due to arthritis or other dexterity problems. Our team can suggest solutions or special products to overcome these problems and keep teeth clean and healthy at any age.
To request an appointment with our team to discuss your unique dental care needs, please contact us today.