Just like other parts of your body, your mouth experiences specific changes as you age. In fact, dental care for the geriatric population can look very different from that of children and younger adults. It is important to acknowledge and address the unique needs of your teeth and gums at every stage of life.
There are both environmental and biological factors that put aging adults at a greater risk for dental problems. Common dental concerns for seniors include gum disease, tooth decay and oral cancer. There are various reasons for this, including the following:
Dry Mouth: While it is normal to produce less saliva as you age, dry mouth is also a side effect for more than 500 medications. Despite the discomfort from dealing with a dry mouth, it can also make aging adults more susceptible to gum disease and decay. Saliva rinses away food particles and bacteria from the teeth and gums, and it also aids in neutralizing the acids in the mouth. Without your spit, the oral environment can become threatening.
Smaller Tooth Nerves: As we grow older, the nerves in our teeth can become smaller, which can make issues like tooth decay less noticeable. When dental issues like cavities get diagnosed late, it can lead to worsening problems and more complex treatment.
Shrinking Gums and Enamel Wear: The natural aging process can include shrinking gum tissues, which leaves the teeth more exposed to infection and decay. In addition, the outer layer of the teeth (enamel) can wear thin over time, which accelerates the vulnerability of the teeth.
Oral Cancer: The average age of an oral cancer diagnosis is 62 years old. Oral cancer includes cancers of the mouth, throat, tongue, and lips. Whether it is a family history of oral cancer or a lifetime of bad habits, it is important to know and recognize the symptoms of oral cancer as you age, which includes red or white spots, sores in the mouth or bleeding which does not disappear within two weeks.
If you consider yourself in the geriatric population, don’t count yourself out of a healthy and confident smile. At Gilreath Family Dentistry, we take a proactive approach in helping seniors maintain their dental health, which may include special treatment for dry mouth, more regular trips to the dentist as well as appropriate tools for better dental hygiene. Many senior adults benefit from electric toothbrushes and water flossers that don’t require as much dexterity to get the job done. To learn more about keeping a brilliant smile as you age, please call Dr. Gilreath in Marietta.
Posted on behalf of Dr. Paul Gilreath IV,