5 Oral Health Challenges Older People Face
As you age, your chance of experiencing an oral health problem increases. By being aware of the challenges that older people face, you can take action to protect your oral health as you get older.
1. Dry Mouth
Many medical conditions and medications affect saliva flow. As many older people need to take medications every day, dry mouth is a widespread issue among the senior population. Lack of saliva can lead to sores in the mouth as well as increasing the risk of dental decay.
Sipping water is a good way to keep the mouth moist during the day, although dry mouth can still be a problem at night. Ask your dentist about medications to boost saliva flow.
2. Thin Enamel
Every tooth is covered with a thin layer of dental enamel, which protects the inner parts of the tooth from decay. As you get older, this enamel often becomes thinner, which puts you at risk of cavities. One of the first signs of thin enamel is teeth that look dark in colour. Another sign is sensitive teeth. If you experience these symptoms, schedule an appointment with your dentist.
3. Gum Disease
Gum disease can affect people of any age, but it is more common in older people. Your risk of gum disease is higher if you smoke or if you have a lot of tartar build-up on your teeth. Regular professional dental cleanings and a good daily hygiene routine can remove plaque and tartar and therefore reduce your risk.
4. Bone Loss
Some people start to experience bone loss in their jaw as they age. This loss can lead to a change in the shape of the face, creating a sunken appearance. Bone loss is a particular problem for people who use dentures, which do not effectively transfer chewing forces through the gum tissue to the jaw bone. Dental implants, which extend into the gums on titanium posts, transfer these forces much more efficiently. The forces stimulate bone growth which helps to keep the jaw bone healthy.
5. Oral Cancer
Oral cancer is not very common, but the risk of getting this type of cancer does increase with age. The first signs of oral cancer include sores or white patches in the mouth. Dentists are often the first people to spot these early warning signs of cancer, so it is very important to have regular check-ups to protect yourself.