Common Oral Health Issues in Seniors

Getting older has its perks. As the years go, on you gain experience, store up countless memories, and get access to great discounts at restaurants and movies. 

But there are some inevitable downsides of aging. Creaky joints and wrinkled skin are likely some of the first things that come to mind. But have you ever considered the changes that impact your teeth and gums?

You may not realize it, but your oral health becomes more susceptible to serious problems the older you get. 

Here, Dr. Ryan J. Fait and our team at Southern California General & Cosmetic Dentistry in Long Beach and Avalon, California, are taking a closer look at what happens to your oral health as you age, as well as equipping you with some practical ways to support a healthy smile no matter how old you are. 

The link between age and oral health problems

There are a variety of factors that contribute to a heightened risk of oral health problems in seniors. For example, having a disability, being home or bedbound, or living in a nursing home can make it difficult to keep up a dental hygiene routine. Studies also show that adults over the age of 50 who smoke cigarettes are much less likely to get dental care than those who don’t smoke. 

Some chronic diseases, including arthritis, diabetes, heart diseases, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) that are common in older adults, as well as certain medications, can make you more susceptible to oral health problems.

You may also lose your dental insurance benefits after retiring, and federal Medicare plans don’t cover routine dental care, so getting dental care can be difficult after a certain age.

As a result, seniors are vulnerable to a wide range of oral health problems. Here are a few of the most common. 

Tooth discoloration

Over the years, the bright white outer layer of your teeth called the enamel slowly wears away and exposes the dentin (a yellowish layer of bone-like tissue) below. A lifetime of consuming stain-causing foods and drinks can also change the color of your teeth. Fortunately, we offer advanced teeth whitening services that help to revive your discolored smile. 

Some discoloration is a natural part of aging, but it’s important to pay close attention to teeth that turn a dark color, as it may be a sign of a more serious problem.

Jawbone issues

If you’ve lost a tooth in the past and haven’t replaced it, your jawbone may have gone through some significant changes. Without a tooth root to hold on to, your jawbone atrophies, and your other teeth drift out of alignment. Talk to us about our comprehensive tooth replacement options, including dental implants that restore your smile and support a healthy jawbone.

Gum disease

Gum disease develops when plaque accumulates around your teeth. Plaque accumulation eventually turns into a hard substance called tartar, which gathers along your gum line and makes cleaning your teeth and gums difficult. Over time, tartar and bacteria buildup irritate and infect your gums, causing your gums to recede and putting you at risk of tooth loss.

Poor dental hygiene, the use of tobacco products, poor nutrition, and ill-fitting dental appliances can accelerate the onset of gum disease. Dr. Fait guides you towards healthier habits and offers the expert care you need to avoid gum disease.

Oral cancer

Oral and pharyngeal cancer is common among older adults, with 62 being the average age of diagnosis. Your likelihood of oral cancer increases if you’re a heavy smoker, consume an excessive amount of alcohol, or have a family history. 

Oral hygiene tips for seniors

Regardless of age, the best thing you can do to support your oral health is to maintain a consistent dental hygiene routine. That means brushing and flossing twice daily, using an antibacterial mouth rinse, and taking care of your dental appliances. 

We also encourage you to schedule regular check-ups with Dr. Fait. Before your appointment, take note of any new or worsening issues such as:

During your check-up, we conduct a thorough review of your oral health history, discuss any concerns you have, and answer your questions. 

If you’d like more information about how to address your oral health problems, you can request an appointment online or over the phone today.

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