Some of us were born with good teeth and others, well, not so much. Honestly, my mouth full of cavities, crowns and caps is not due to the chocolate I consume, but rather, to my poor dental genes.
Please tell that to my husband if you see him. He’s got great teeth and just doesn’t get it. He thought my daughter’s cavities were due to eating gummy worms! If you’re rolling your eyes, here’s what you need to understand – she has the best oral hygiene of anyone I’ve ever known, dentists included. She brushes and flosses like a maniac. And she still gets cavities.
Where do you fall in the great tooth debate? Well, whether you were blessed with good genes or have to work at it, the state of your dental health as a senior may be connected to how well you took care of your teeth beginning in childhood. On the other hand, it’s never too late to start giving them the attention they deserve. Better late than never.
Some seniors feel like they can take a dental vacation once they reach a certain age – but don’t do it. The truth is, older adults are susceptible to some conditions of the mouth that the younger folks don’t generally get. More than 30% of older adults have untreated cavities and an amazing one-third of that population will lose their teeth. And did you know that a quarter of people between the ages of 65 and 74 are affected by gum disease? Periodontal disease doesn’t just affect your mouth – it can cause a myriad of other health issues such as heart disease, diabetes, stroke and respiratory problems. In short, it’s nothing to mess with.
Here are some other common dental issues that affect seniors.
Dark teeth. A lifetime of eating and drinking is bound to stain your teeth. In addition, your enamel starts to thin as you get older, letting the darker-colored dentin show through.
Root decay. It’s another (nasty) fact of nature that as you age, your gums may start to recede. This can expose your tooth roots to the acids in foods and result in cavities, as well as potential root canals and pain.
Tooth loss. Gum disease and poor dental hygiene are two of the most common causes of tooth loss. If you’re tempted to shrug and say you don’t mind losing a molar in the back of your mouth, ask yourself how you’d feel to lose multiple teeth or the ones in the front? You’d probably need a bridge, dentures or implants. Wouldn’t it be better to take care of your teeth before it comes to that?
Dry mouth. That doesn’t sound so bad, but it can be really frustrating to those living with the condition. What causes it? Well, medications are a big culprit, but many times those meds are necessary for some other health condition — and dry mouth is the lesser of the evils. Ask your doctor about the possibility of switching your medication, keep a water bottle handy or try some of the dry mouth dental remedies (such as Biotene) that are on the market.
Taste bud changes. Aging, dentures and medications can diminish your sense of taste. If you love to eat, this is sad news. However, if the food you’re served is on the less-than-gourmet side, then count your blessings!
Periodontal disease. Gum disease is often caused by food that isn’t brushed or flossed away properly. Plaque is another offender. But in addition to dental hygiene, smoking, diabetes, dentures and a poor diet can contribute to the condition.
Understanding the importance of dental diligence – at any age – you might wonder why seniors would stay away from the dentist. Well, for some, it may be due to one or more bad dental experiences or even a dental phobia.
Others are restricted by their mobility. They may find it hard to get out due to dementia or physical issues (like walkers or wheelchairs). Or they may not have access to transportation – and not many dentists make house calls!
And on top of all that, just 2% of seniors have dental insurance.
But in spite of all those excuses, you need to remember how important your teeth are.
- Brush and floss at least once or twice a day.
- Watch out for any changes in your teeth or gums.
- See your dentist regularly.
- And if cost is an issue, check into reduced dental rates for seniors.
If you’re a senior living at Discovery Commons At College Park in Indiana – or a senior or family member looking for the perfect senior living community – you’ll have a great head start caring for your teeth. Sensations dining – offered in our independent living community – will ensure that you don’t need to worry about poor nutrition. And the delicious chef-prepared meals are sure to give new life to those aging taste buds! For those in assisted living or memory care, certified nursing assistants are on hand to help residents with brushing and flossing to keep those pearly whites in tiptop shape. A full-time health and wellness staff can help you identify any health or dental concerns that may need dental attention. And on-site transportation will even get you to the dentist. Check out Discovery Commons At College Park by contacting us online or giving us a call at 317-961-7256. It’s sure to put a smile on your face!