Oral Health for Older Adults
No matter what age we reach we still want to maintain good oral health, be able to enjoy our food, and confidently smile at our grandchildren.
Caring for our teeth becomes more important as we age, most adults over the age of 60 only have a portion of their original teeth.
Some teeth may have been extracted and chances are that a number of them have some sort of filling or restoration.
Sensitive teeth, gum disease, dry mouth and diabetes and heart disease are just some of the conditions that prove why maintaining good oral health is important as we get older.
Keeping in mind that dental health is connected to our overall whole-body health.
We have all heard of the expression ‘getting long in the tooth’ in reference to getting older. Unfortunately, this is not just an expression.
After years of brushing our gums recede, giving the appearance of us having longer teeth. Gum recession exposes the part of our tooth that is not covered by protective enamel and is more sensitive to cold and sweet.
Once the gum has receded, we have little chance of coming back. To help stop this sensitivity we can try using a sensitive toothpaste and only ever use a soft toothbrush, or a dentist may suggest a small filling to cover the exposed area.
More adults’ loose teeth due to gum disease than to decay. Plaque and food that is left on our teeth, as well as smoking, unhealthy diets and poor fitting dentures can lead to gum disease.
Anaemia, cancer and diabetes can also contribute. It is important that we continue regular exams with our dentist so that these conditions can be monitored and addressed, often a six monthly clean is all that is required to keep gum disease away.
As we get older our doctors may prescribe medications that will cause a decrease in the amount of salvia our bodies naturally produce, resulting in a dry mouth.
The concern we have with a dry mouth is that it increases our rate of decay which can lead to infections and subsequently tooth loss.
Some of the signs of dry mouth include a sticky or dry feeling in the throat or mouth, difficulty chewing, swallowing or when speaking, a rough or dry tongue and cracked lips.
There are a number of dry mouth products available at chemists or you can try sipping water more often, avoiding caffeine, chewing sugarless gum or sucking on sugarless hard-boiled lollies.
Tabaco and alcohol can dry out the mouth even further. Try to minimize the amount of salty or spicy food you have as this may cause teeth to become more sensitive. Avoid sugar and acidic foods to try to reduce the amount of plaque build-up and use a humidifier at night.
Diabetes and Heart Disease
The risk of diabetes increases as we get older. People who suffer from diabetes have a greater chance of having gum disease, thrush (as a result of a fungus that grows in the mouth) and of dry mouth.
Uncontrolled blood sugar levels can cause glucose levels to rise in the saliva creating a breeding ground for bacteria and therefore puts us at higher risk of tooth decay.
Research has proven a connection between heart disease and gum disease. They are connected by the spread of bacteria from your mouth to the other parts of your body through the blood stream.
When this bacterium reaches your heart, they attach themselves to any damaged area they find and will cause inflammation. People who suffer from gum disease (periodontal disease) are two times more likely to also have heart disease or coronary artery disease.
For not only your oral health, but also your overall health, it is essential that we continue going to our dentists regularly as we get older.
Whether we are grey nomads enjoying our beautiful country, still working at a job we love, or living a life of peace in a nursing home, we all want to be able to enjoy our food and live as full of a life as possible, so make sure that looking after your oral health is a priority.
Older residents of North Lakes, Kallangur, Mango Hill, Murrumba Downs, Griffin, Deception Bay and the Redcliffe Peninsula, are welcome to come into Passion Family Dental North Lakes and chat with one of our highly trained dentists about how we can help not only your oral health but also you overall health.
Call (07) 3465 1199 or visit us at Unit 4/6 Endeavour Boulevard in North Lakes.