Senior Dental Health: Key Risks
Whether you are 17 or 77, the importance of a healthy mouth cannot be understated. But dental patients over 60 years old are at a much higher risk of developing oral health complications.
As we age, natural changes to nerves, bone strength, and mobility can make it challenging to maintain good oral health. Because oral health is connected to both quality of life and overall health, it makes good sense for seniors to take care of their mouths as much as possible. In the sections below, we’ll look at the most common risk factors seniors face in their oral health.
Seniors are more likely to experience dry mouth from aging, dietary changes, and even side effects from medications. Dry mouth occurs when your mouth is unable to produce enough saliva. Saliva is important because it provides enamel-restoring minerals and washes away harmful bacteria. Without the right saliva concentration, your mouth becomes susceptible to decay, cavities, plaque buildup, and periodontal disease.
Periodontal disease is a risk factor at any age, but especially for seniors. Gum disease is caused by a buildup of bacteria, called plaque. As plaque hardens, it becomes tartar, which sits along the gum line. Periodontal disease contributes to receding gums, dry mouth, bad breath, and tooth loss.
What makes gum disease so problematic for seniors? Well, as part of the natural aging process, nerves become less sensitive. Because gum disease is often painless in its beginning stages, many seniors don’t realize they have gum disease until it’s too late. Once periodontal disease advances, it can contribute to heart disease, oral cancer, and respiratory disease.
Even seniors who wear dentures can be at a higher risk of developing gum disease. This is because dentures can trap food particles against the gums, creating an environment where harmful bacteria thrive. If you wear dentures, make sure to clean them regularly and remove them at nighttime.
According to the CDC, 96 percent of adults age 65 and up have had at least one cavity. And as many as 18 percent have cavities that haven’t been treated. Seniors are at a higher risk of cavities due to fluctuating diets, weakened enamel, and even a lack of brushing due to limited mobility. This can contribute to infection, root damage, and eventually, tooth loss.
On average, seniors in the 65 and older range have nine decayed or missing teeth. That’s almost an entire row of teeth! Tooth loss can stem from decay, damage, or natural weakening of the jawbone. While we may protect teeth from decay and plaque buildup, we can’t protect against the jawbone’s natural weakening. Seniors who are 75 and older frequently experience complete tooth loss, leading to permanent dental implants or dentures.
Schedule a senior oral health checkup with Hinsdale Dental today! Brushing, flossing, and using a mouth rinse can go a long way in helping seniors maintain good oral health. But because seniors are at a higher risk of developing oral health complications, it’s essential to seek professional dental treatment as soon as possible. Give Hinsdale Dental a call today to schedule your next visit!Return to Blog