Dental Issues as You Age
Dental issues can affect people of all ages, but they tend to be more common in the elderly. Older adults have more dental issues because great changes are happening throughout the body including in the teeth, gums, and other cells, tissues, and organs.
If you have certain health conditions, you might experience more dental issues. Certain medications can also affect your dental health. The good news is that you can do things to solve your dental issues and make yourself more comfortable if you are experiencing problems.
Visiting our dentist in Orem can provide you with all the support you need. You can make an appointment for dental checkups and other preventative dentistry services to make sure your gums and teeth are in good shape. Below we have described the most common oral health issues that you might encounter as you age. We will also discuss some tips for preventing them and when you should seek an appointment with our dentist.
Older adults often experience dry mouth more often than younger adults. Dry mouth is often related to medicine use and other health conditions, but some people experience dry mouth with no other issues. Saliva is important for oral health so having a chronic dry mouth can make your gums and teeth decay faster than normal. Low production of saliva can also disrupt your life in other ways because it can affect the way you chew, swallow, and taste. It can also cause mouth sores and thrush infections on the tongue and mouth.
As you grow older, your saliva production slows down. You are more likely to have a dry mouth if you are taking medication for blood pressure, cholesterol, or depression. Certain health conditions like diabetes also make your mouth dry. If you are on medication or have a health condition and start experiencing dry mouth, it may only be temporary. If it becomes chronic, your primary doctor may try and give you another medicine to see if the side effect goes away.
If you cannot change the medicine, you need to make sure you are drinking water all day and keeping your mouth as wet as possible. Try to also keep water by the bed at night as a dry mouth can be worse at night or in the morning when you first wake up.
Another common dental issue among older people is gum problems. This is because the gums are often receding quickly in older adults. Gum recession is when gum tissues begin to pull away from the tooth and slowly expose the root of the tooth. With the exposed root, you are more likely to get bacteria on the tooth that leads to inflammation and decay.
Periodontal disease is the main cause of gum recession. Gingivitis is common and it can turn into periodontitis. It can cause many different issues including inflammation of the gums which is painful. Gingivitis can be treated though when caught early which is why getting regular dental checkups is extremely important.
You might be at a higher risk of periodontal disease and gum recession if you have one or more of the following:
- Dry mouth
- Not getting checkups at least twice a year or every six months
- Weak immune system
- Not brushing and flossing regularly
If you think you have gum disease, make sure to go to the dentist right away. An Orem dentist can do a thorough check to see if further dental care is needed.
Anyone can get a cavity, but older adults often have them more often. Cavities happen when bacteria in the mouth turn sugar into acid. This is why people who eat sugar or drink sugary drinks more often are at a higher risk for cavities. As you grow, your chances of getting cavities increase because your teeth are older. Since older adults also have receding gums, cavities can develop lower on the tooth at the root which is more serious and harder to prevent. A dry mouth can also increase your chances of getting a cavity since the mouth can harbor bacteria that can cause tooth decay and cavities.
Oral cancer is most common in those who are 45 or older. It’s also twice as common in men than it is for women. Smoking is the main cause of oral cancer. If you drink and smoke or chew tobacco, your chances of getting oral cancer are also greater. You might also have a higher chance of getting oral cancer if you have an HPV infection or if you are taking medicines that are immunosuppressants. Poor oral hygiene also causes oral cancer which is why it’s important to always get regular dental checkups and to brush and floss often.
When to See the Dentist
Make sure you are going for checkups twice a year or more often if the dentist requests you to. You should also call the dentist right away if you have any of the following:
- Tooth pain
- Dentures that do not fit
- Loose teeth
- Chronic bad breath
- Red or white patches in your mouth
- Mouth sores
- Dry mouth
- Swollen gums that are also red
If you have started any new medications, make sure to let our dentist know. It will help him know if your symptoms could be a result of the medication or if it’s something else. Dr. Alexander Larsen has been in practice for over 25 years. He wants everyone to have a beautiful smile that they can be confident and proud of. He has extensive experience providing high-quality dental care to older patients so you can know you are in good hands.
Make an Appointment with an Orem Dentist Today
If you are experiencing any dental issues, contact our office today. We will make an appointment for you as soon as possible to address your concerns and to do a checkup. We can also take x-rays to see the roots of your teeth to make sure there are no cavities or other concerns.