Time isn’t kind to the human body. As a person ages, their body changes in various ways, and this can affect their health adversely. Aging affects all the cells, tissues, and organs of the body including those in your mouth. This is why people tend to experience more oral health issues as they grow older. In addition to the natural changes that occur in the body as a person ages, seniors also experience some health conditions or use medications that may have a resultant negative side effect on their oral health. While these changes might be inevitable, you can take steps to mitigate them and maintain good oral health. The first step is to be aware of these changes and know how to properly respond to them. The following are 5 common oral health issues people experience as they age.
Saliva plays a very vital role in keeping your mouth healthy. It cleans your mouth and protects your teeth from decay. However, the production of this fluid by the salivary gland tends to slow down as a person ages. In addition to this, health conditions that come with age such as diabetes, Sjögren syndrome, and stroke can also affect the production of saliva in the mouth. Similarly, medications for these conditions can also reduce the amount of saliva your salivary glands are producing. The reduced production of saliva can cause several changes in your mouth and trigger various oral health issues including mouth sores, gum disease, tooth decay, difficulty swallowing and chewing food, thrush (a type of yeast infection in the mouth), and so on.
Since your mouth needs to stay sufficiently moist to remain healthy, you have to actively try to prevent dry mouth to prevent the different health problems associated with it. For starters, you should drink more water to keep your body hydrated at all times. It is also recommended that you keep water in your mouth for a few seconds before you swallow it. You can also stimulate the production of saliva in your mouth by sucking sugarless candy or chewing gum. If you’re taking drugs that are causing mouth dryness, you can talk to your doctor for recommendations or ask if you can change them for better alternatives.
Tooth decay is another oral health issue that comes with age. One major factor that raises the risk of tooth decay in older adults is the wear and tear that comes with several years of chewing and grinding down on your teeth. This grinds away the teeth’ enamel and increases the risk of cavities developing on your teeth. The action of bacteria on starchy food particles and sugars also erodes the enamel and gives rise to tooth cavities. With time, holes will appear on your teeth, especially at the root of the teeth where the gums have started to recede due to age.
Although it is impossible to prevent the natural wear and tear that comes with age, one can reduce it by following recommended oral health practices from an early age. This includes brushing, flossing, and cleaning your mouth as recommended. Also, you should avoid chewing on ice and other hard foods as this can cause the enamel to chip off.
You should also take steps to mitigate the risk of decay by correcting orthodontic issues that can give rise to it. This may include getting Invisalign braces to correct teeth alignment and poor bite issues, wearing a night guard to prevent grinding, fixing teeth gap issues, and so on. Scheduling regular visits to your dentist’s office will also ensure that cavities are caught early and fixed as promptly.
The Gingiva (gum) is just as vital to your oral health as your teeth. This means you have to pay just as much attention to it as you do to your teeth each time you clean your mouth. A buildup of plaque on the gums will allow bacteria to develop on the gum and this can lead to gum disease over time. Also, doing things that directly harm your gums such as brushing too hard can cause the gums to recede. In older adults, some diseases or age-related conditions can also increase the risk of gum diseases. Experts say diabetes, dry mouth, and a weakened immune system can predispose older individuals to gum diseases. Discovering gum disease early and treating it promptly will prevent it from weakening your teeth, tooth loss, and other side effects that tend to happen if the problem is left to linger. That’s why you should schedule regular visits to the dentist’s office to check up and clean your mouth.
A slight change in the color of your teeth is normal as you grow older. Almost everyone will experience this at some point. The enamel, which is the outer layer of your teeth is white in color. Below this, you have a layer known as the dentine, which is yellowish. As a person ages, the natural wear and tear gradually erode the enamel, revealing the yellow dentine underneath.
Aside from this, your teeth can get stained by certain foods and drinks such as soda, coffee, red wine, tea, and tobacco products. Certain drugs elderly people tend to take such as antipsychotic and antihypertensive medications can also cause teeth discoloration.
While natural teeth discoloration that comes with age cannot be prevented, you can take steps to reduce the risk of discoloration caused by food staining and other similar causes. Several over-the-counter teeth whitening products can improve the appearance of your teeth. A professional dentist can also carry out an in-office teeth whitening procedure to get rid of stains. You can also get dental bonding, crowns, or veneers to improve the appearance of your teeth and brighten your smile.
As a person grows older, existing gum and teeth issues can get worse, weakening the gums and exposing the root of the teeth. Eventually, tooth loss occurs when the roots are simply too weak to hold them up. The best way to prevent tooth loss is by following a good oral care routine right from an early age. Brushing your teeth, flossing regularly, and visiting your dentist can help prevent gum issues, tooth decay, and eventual teeth loss. Your dentist will also recommend the best oral care practices that will make your teeth strong and healthy.