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Oral Health for Older Adults: Problems, Causes, and Prevention

As adults age, they may notice a variety of oral health changes, from mild tooth decay to oral cancer. There are many possible causes of declining oral health. Fortunately, there are solutions as well.

Oral Health Changes

Some common dental health issues for older adults include gum disease (a.k.a. periodontal disease). This condition is an infection that impacts the bone and tissue supporting the teeth. It is quite common in mature adults.

Older folks may also experience tooth decay, which is the destruction of the tooth enamel. Furthermore, both tooth decay and periodontal disease can precipitate tooth loss. Tooth loss not only causes cosmetic problems but also may lead to malnutrition due to the increased difficulty of chewing.

Finally, older individuals face an increased risk of oral cancer. Some signs to be aware of include a change in denture fit, white or red patches in the mouth, or unusual lumps or dry areas in the mouth. At your visit to an oral health professional, they should conduct an oral cancer screening to check for any changes.

Causes of these Oral Health Changes

Although many elements contribute to oral health changes, there are a few common causes. These include physical impairments like bone and joint pain. Those with arthritis or osteoporosis have more difficulty manipulating dental cleaning implements like floss or a toothbrush. This is a problem because to prevent tooth decay, gum disease, and other issues, it is necessary to physically manipulate and remove the bacteria that thrives in the mouth.

Also, people who smoke, have diabetes, or improperly regulate their blood sugar control are more likely to suffer from periodontal disease. Finally, many individuals are prescribed medications that cause dry mouth as a side effect. This condition is problematic because dry mouth inhibits saliva production, and saliva flow helps keep the mouth clean.

Treatment and Prevention

First, maintaining consistent and thorough oral health routines at home can diminish or eliminate the adverse impact of health conditions that may damage oral health. It is imperative to brush after each meal and floss at least once a day. For those with arthritis, osteoporosis, or similar conditions, an electric toothbrush helps alleviate some of the difficulty in handling a toothbrush.

To prevent tooth decay, make sure that your toothpaste contains fluoride as well. Contrary to some people’s beliefs, fluoride is not just for children but also benefits adults, according to the Center for Disease Control. Acids break down the tooth enamel over time, and fluoride is a powerful mineral that helps the teeth combat acidic breakdown. Additionally, drink water that contains fluoride when possible.

Also, if you have diabetes, it is necessary to regulate your blood sugar and eat a healthy diet, because adults with diabetes are more susceptible to gum disease, which ultimately causes tooth loss. A periodontist can also aid you in treating gum disease and mitigate negative consequences of this condition on your oral health overall.

Finally, remember to inform your oral health professional of any medications you are taking. As mentioned, numerous medications cause dry mouth, and your periodontist can provide you with several ways to decrease dry mouth and lessen the detrimental consequences of dry mouth on your oral health as a whole.

Have questions? Give North Raleigh Periodontics a call at (919) 518-8222 to discuss what you can do to improve your oral health.