Dental Concerns for Older Adults – Wellesley, MA
The American Dental Society recently reported that nearly 3 in 10 seniors rate their oral health as poor-fair. Some of the common concerns dentists see among senior patients are cavities caused by dry mouth, gum recession & loosening of teeth, and difficulty with oral hygiene due to arthritis.
One common causes of tooth decay in older adults is dry mouth. Saliva has many protective qualities for proper tooth hydration and helps wash away plaque. The lack of saliva can increase risk of decay. Usually it is a side effect caused by medications for high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and anxiety. Decay usually occurs on root surfaces along the gumline, underneath crowns and older restorations. The ADA recommends the following for dry mouth:
- Use over-the-counter oral moisturizers, such as a spray or mouthwash.
- Consult with your physician on whether to change the medication or dosage.
- Drink more water. Carry a water bottle with you, and don’t wait until you’re thirsty to drink. Your mouth needs constant lubrication.
- Use sugar-free gum or lozenges to stimulate saliva production.
- Get a humidifier to help keep moisture in the air.
- Avoid foods and beverages that irritate dry mouths, like coffee, alcohol, carbonated soft drinks, and acidic fruit juices.
- Your dentist may apply a fluoride gel or varnish to protect your teeth from cavities.
Gum recession is when gum tissue pulls back from your teeth, uncovering some of the root. This can make the area sensitive to temperature extremes.
As a quick fix, use a fluoride mouth rinse, or switch to a toothpaste made for sensitive teeth. If your problem is more serious, your dentist may seal or bond the roots. He might recommend a soft tissue graft. This procedure uses material, either man-made or from another area of your mouth, to cover exposed roots.
The sensation of loosening of teeth can be caused by several factors. You may be clenching or grinding your teeth. You may need to see a periodontist, a doctor who specializes in the mouth’s gums and bones. Diabetes can also exacerbate periodontitis.
Arthritis can make it difficult to clean hard to reach areas in the mouth.
- Try a battery- or electric-powered toothbrush if you feel strong enough.
- Get a toothbrush with a larger handle, so it’s easier to grip.
- Try a dental floss aid or alternative
You may need to have a professional cleaning done more often, about every 3-4 months instead of 6. For more information, contact Newton Wellesley Dental Partners in Wellesley.