As the body ages, it becomes difficult to keep up with mounting health concerns that develop over time. Because of this, it is easy for adults and seniors to ignore, or forget about the maintenance of dental health and hygiene.
The following list outlines some of the main problems that adults can encounter as a result of inadequate dental care.
Dry Mouth: Salivary flow is reduced. This can be a result of medications or even from radiation therapy to the head and neck area. Saliva is the body’s natural defense against the bacteria and food debris that can build up in our mouths.
Darker Smile: This is the cumulative effect of thinning enamel, and also results from a lifetime of eating and drinking that stains and darkens the teeth. To avoid this requires avoiding consumption of the main stain offenders: wine, coffee and tea, and consuming the latter with milk if possible. For many people, a simple teeth whitening can bring back the bright, white shine. For others, it may require more extensive cosmetic dentistry.
Decay along the roots of teeth: As people age they are not as diligent with their dental hygiene, and one of the effects is recession of gum tissue around the teeth. Receding gums will expose portions of the tooth’s root. Roots have less protection and are more vulnerable to developing tooth decay. Since this area is thinner, tooth decay can progress rapidly leading to tooth sensitivity and possibly the need for a root canal.
Change in taste: Things that can contribute changes to taste besides the natural occurrence of aging include disease, medications, and even dentures.
Periodontal Disease: Also known as gum disease, affects people of all ages, but tends to be more prevalent in older adults. This is due to a usually slow progression of the disease. Keeping periodontal disease at bay with effective dental hygiene will stave off tooth loss. A full smile is a youthful looking one.
Tooth Loss: This can occur for many reasons including periodontal disease, trauma, or untreated tooth decay. It is important to replace lost teeth, with a bridge or an implant, when possible as it prevents the bite from shifting, and creating issues such as TMJ (see below).
Temperomandibular Joint Disorder (TMJ): This is generally a slow developing disorder, so it is more likely to occur in an older person than a younger one. The bones and the disc in this joint will break down from bad habits like teeth grinding over a long period of time.
Denture Induced Stomatitis: This is an inflammation of the tissues beneath dentures. This is caused by dentures that do not fit properly, poor oral hygiene, or can even be caused by a fungus known as thrush.
What Can Be Done To Combat These Issues?
The main necessity is to maintain dental hygiene throughout life. This includes brushing at least 2x per day, flossing at least 1x per day, and using a mouthwash without alcohol. Dental hygiene tends to become more difficult for many as they age due to arthritis and memory, so an electric toothbrush may be helpful in these cases.
It is also extremely important to keep up with your regularly scheduled dental visits for examinations, oral cancer screenings and professional cleanings.
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