Oral health is a priority at every stage of life, and taking care of your teeth when you are young will help preserve your smile for your senior years when dental problems unique to the later decades of life can come into play.
There are a host of oral health issues that can arise as you age, and maintaining regular preventive care visits to the dentist can help prevent dental issues from getting out of hand. Seeing a holistic dentist is especially helpful because often the mouth provides signs of illness that are hiding elsewhere in the body. Because a holistic dentist focuses on the whole person and doesn’t just correct visible dental problems, it’s often possible for her to be the first one to notice signs of diabetes, cardiovascular issues, or digestive issues.
Causes of Age-Related Oral Health Problems
As we age, some health afflictions and medical conditions develop that require medication or specific treatments that can be detrimental to oral health. Side effects of some medical issues can get in the way of administering good preventive care. For example:
- Inflammation: Arthritis in the hands and fingers especially can make it difficult to floss and brush teeth as necessary.
- Medication: The pills and treatments that are prescribed for some medical conditions can lead to dry mouth, and this problem can contribute to gum disease and cavities.
- Mental health: In some situations, cognitive health disorders such as dementia or plain forgetfulness can lead to skipping important dental care appointments or neglecting to brush teeth regularly at home.
- DNA: Some people are simply genetically predisposed to suffer from dental problems, whether you have weak enamel or naturally yellowish teeth.
Dental care is a priority for everyone, but senior dental health care is especially important to maintain since seniors are prone to developing even more oral health problems than a typical patient.
Common Dental Problems for Seniors
While gum disease is a direct result of plaque, bacteria, and food that lingers on our teeth, it can also develop as a side effect of diabetes, cancer, and anemia, all health issues that are common to seniors. If permitted to fester and develop into full-blown periodontitis, gum disease will cause tooth loss which will require restorative dentistry, including gum disease treatment and quite likely dental implants. Gum disease overall is linked to many health problems within the body, most notably heart disease which is also an inflammatory issue like gum disease.
Dry mouth can be a side effect of medication taken for age-related health problems, but it can also be caused by radiation for cancer treatments, or a decrease in the production of saliva. There must be a balance of thick and thin saliva in the mouth to keep it moist and protect from decay. An imbalance or a decrease in the production of either or both types of saliva can lead to serious tooth decay.
As we get older, the dentin under the tooth enamel begins to darken. This is caused by the foods and beverages we eat and drink. This intrinsic discoloration, combined with a thinning of the outer layer of enamel which may also have stains, allows the yellow dentist to show through the tooth. This creates the illusion of dark teeth, which is typically unfixable with a teeth whitening treatment and must be addressed with restorative or cosmetic dentistry, like porcelain veneers.
If you are concerned about your aging teeth, or have a senior loved one who needs better oral health care, contact Dr. Yolanda Cintron at the International Center for Dental Excellence to make an appointment and discuss your dental care needs.