What Seniors Need to Know About Their Oral Health
The older patients become, the more unique health challenges we begin to face. This is especially true when it comes to the challenges seniors face maintaining their oral health. At Oregon City Dentistry, family dentist in Oregon City Dr. Brett Johnson and his friendly and professional staff make every effort to help senior patients understand how to improve and maintain their oral health.
Trying to keep their teeth and gums healthy and strong leaves seniors with a lot of questions about their oral health. To help you understand what you need to do to maintain a healthy smile, here are the answers to a number of common questions seniors have about their dental care.
Q. Do Seniors Need to Worry about Cavities?
When you think about cavities, it’s easy to assume the oral health problem only effects children. However, thanks to advances made in preventative care, dental sealants, and the availability of fluoridated water, there has been a significant reduction in the number children with cavities over the last 20 years. In fact, the group that has seen the largest increase in cavities during that same period of time is seniors.
This has occurred due to a variety of factors. For one, gum tissue begins to recede away from the base of our teeth as we age. This exposes the roots of our teeth to bacteria that causes decay and cavities. Additionally, seniors are more likely to suffer from dry mouth, which causes the body to produce less saliva. Normally, saliva helps wash away harmful bacteria and lingering food particles in the mouth that cause decay. Without this protection, seniors who suffer from dry mouth have a higher risk of developing tooth decay and gum disease.
To offset the effects of dry mouth and age, seniors need to pay close attention to their oral hygiene to protect their teeth and gums.
Q. What Causes Tooth Sensitivity to Hot and Cold Foods and Drinks?
The roots of your teeth become exposed when gum tissue recedes away from the base of your teeth. These roots contain thousands of tiny tubules that run directly to the sensitive nerve center of a tooth. When outside stimuli such as hot, cold, sweet, or even sour irritate these tubules, it cause a sharp, sudden burst of pain to radiate out from the nerve center of a tooth.
Seniors who deal with sensitive teeth may want to try switching to a toothpaste designed to help relieve sensitive teeth. In cases of extreme sensitivity, seniors may consider undergoing a soft tissue graft to cover exposed tooth roots. If you suffer from sensitive teeth, talk to Dr. Johnson about a treatment method that’s right for you.
Q. Do Seniors Have an Increased Risk of Developing Oral Cancer?
Yes, as with most forms of the disease, the risk of developing oral cancer increases with age. Anytime a senior notices a bump, lesion, sore, or discoloration anywhere in the mouth or on the tongue they need to have it examined by their dentist.
Q. What can be Done About Loose Teeth?
When seniors suffer from loose teeth, they should schedule an appointment with Dr. Johnson, who can diagnose any soft tissue disease in the mouth and recommend treatment options. To determine the best course for your oral health, Dr. Johnson will examine the condition of your teeth, discuss your oral hygiene practices, and review your medical history to make a determination on the best treatment options. Certain medical conditions, such as diabetes, can directly contribute to loose teeth.
Q. Do Seniors With Few to No Teeth Need Still Need to Visit the Dentist?
Even if a senior has no remaining teeth, it’s still wise to schedule a yearly checkup with a dentist. Seniors who wear ill-fitting dentures can experience dental problems that can lead to the development of painful sores or dry mouth, and oral health exams also provide Dr. Johnson with the opportunity to perform a routine oral cancer screening.
Q. What Should Seniors do when Their Dentures No Longer Fit?
As people age, the bone structure that supports their dentures can begin to change. Over time, this may require seniors to have their dentures refitted in order to ensure a snug fit. Dentures can be easily warped or broken, so seniors should never attempt to shape their dentures themselves in an effort to make them fit more securely.