Get savvy with Dr Sarah
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Dr. Sarah explains everything you need to know
about Senior Dental Care services at the dentist
Our teeth are strong, built to last a lifetime if we take good care of them. It is a very common misconception that children’s teeth are only a transitional phase, so no real care for them is needed. Similarly, another misconception involves seniors. Some people think that the teeth can only last all through adulthood, and as you enter your golden years, it is normal that you lose them and get fitted for dentures. That is absolutely NOT TRUE. This idea was built through ad campaigns and billboards, all depicting senior citizens with no teeth and with dentures, making people think that is the norm, but that’s far from the truth. With proper care, our teeth can last until the last day of our lives.
That being said, senior dental care is a lot different than care during your young age. The environment of the mouth changes, and therefore oral hygiene procedures in aged care can be somewhat different compared to the younger age.
Some changes are related to the inside of the mouth, while others have nothing to do with the mouth and are just products of old age, limitation of movement, and other medical conditions we develop that impact the health of the oral system.
Here is what changes inside the mouth:
It is very common – normal even – for saliva flow to decrease with old age. A bit less saliva means you feel your mouth dry, your lips chapped, and your tongue a bit sore. Most people don’t realize the importance of saliva, and how a dry mouth could affect your teeth and overall dental health.
Saliva is a buffer, meaning it maintains the acidity inside the mouth at a minimum, reducing damage to teeth and slowing down the decay process. Not only that, but it is a liquid, meaning it can wash some of the food debris and remnants from the surface of the teeth. Finally, it is full of minerals coating the teeth with a protective layer, adding further protection. With old age and a decrease in saliva, all that is reduced, which translates to a higher incidence of decay, and a greater possibility of gum disease and periodontitis.
The gums usually cover the teeth up to their necks (that is the meeting point between the crown and the root of the tooth). Recession means the gums have fallen away from their normal position, exposing the root beneath them. The root is very sensitive and is also not protected from the oral environment (unlike the crown that is protected by the enamel), so when a recession happens, the teeth are more liable to decay. The recession has many reasons such as gum disease and incorrect brushing techniques, but it also happens naturally with age.
Other problems unrelated to the mouth itself include:
With old age comes a great lethargy. That is the body’s normal reaction to the years of service it rendered. It is only natural that you step more lightly, and therefore the trip to the washroom for brushing and flossing could be a burden. As a result, the oral hygiene regimen is compromised, and the teeth become more liable to decay and other problems.
Again the body’s normal reaction to age. The hands and wrists move slower and with limited range, so the normally easy process of brushing and flossing becomes quite the challenge. So when the elderly do take care of their oral hygiene, it is expected that their level of cleaning is lowered.
Some diseases of the body have a toll on the mouth. Diabetes for example compromises the bone structure of the entire body, jaws included. Therefore, a person with diabetes is more liable for gum disease, tooth mobility, and even loss of teeth. Parkinson’s disease is also common, making teeth cleaning all but impossible, and again the teeth and mouth are compromised.
All of the above problems lead to a very familiar cascade of conditions inside the mouth, including:
The probability of decay increases with the decrease in salivary flow, gum recession, and the overall reduction of oral hygiene from improper cleaning.
Again for the same reasons, the food remnants are poorly cleaned off the teeth and gums, causing gum inflammation. If left untreated, it could lead to periodontitis, teeth mobility, and eventually tooth loss.
As age increases, the probability of tooth loss increases. This could be from lack of care, accidents, and trauma, or just an uncontrollable condition such as diabetes leading to bone and tooth loss.
Tooth infection in elderly teeth and mouth:
The body’s defense mechanisms are highly compromised, so it is natural that chances of an infection increase. The infection comes in the form of teeth infection (or abscesses) or fungal and bacterial infections of the tongue, lips, and cheeks, especially with dry mouth and excessive medication intake.
Oral hygiene for elderly patients differs not in the method (brushing and flossing are basically the same for every age) but rather the frequency and the tools used in these procedures. A soft toothbrush is highly recommended since the gums are weakened, and traditional string floss becomes very difficult to use, and so other options are preferred such as interdental brushes or even better water flossers.
Frequency is also another aspect. While you could get away with brushing once daily and using floss gingerly in your younger years, this simply won’t do with seniors. All the problems we mentioned just mean that elderly oral hygiene needs to be maintained far better compared to younger ages.
Finally, always keep the mouth moist. If you suffer from a small amount of saliva decrease, then frequent sips of water may be enough to compensate for that. However, if the condition evolves, then you should consult a dentist for seniors and talk about saliva replacement therapy.
If the oral hygiene is good and the bone condition allows, then by all means choose dental implants as replacement for missing teeth. Even if you lost all your teeth, dental implants are still a great option. They are comfortable, fixed restorations that strengthens the bone into which they are implanted.
However, since implants are quite expensive (especially if replacing the entire mouth), dentures are often the treatment of choice for most seniors. Dentures have been around for ages, and are still widely used and regarded as great teeth replacement options. They have some problems such as comfort and the fact that they tend to rattle and move around a lot, but still are widely considered successful.
Geriatric dentistry (or senior dentistry) is widespread across the country. A simple online search could be all you need to find a great dentist for seniors. Low cost dentures for seniors could be found almost anywhere you look. All you need to do is do your homework, and look for a great dentist with great recommendations and reviews, and is also close to your residence to reduce the burden of travel on the elderly.
Dental practices that choose to join AirSmile do so because they have a passion for caring for every aspect of a patient’s health and well-being. Our dentists’ members thrive on making life easier for their patients both young and young at heart. Caring for your teeth during the later stages of life comes with its own set of complications and important changes in daily routines in order to keep the oral environment healthy and pain-free. AirSmile and AirSmile dentist members know this and have dedicated programs to help improve the quality and stability of every patient’s mouth.
To speak to a dentist who is willing to take the time to discuss your medical history, complicating factors that have developed due to old age that may be making it difficult for you to maintain a healthy oral condition – book online through AirSmile today.
Our dentist members offer consultations to new patients and will take the time to understand your personal situation and provide you with time and costs for any treatment you may need to keep your teeth for as long as you need them.
Book a senior dental check-up today through AirSmile.
Oral hygiene for the elderly is not different from dental care in younger agents in technique, but rather the frequency and the tools needed to maintain excellent hygiene.
With increased age, the chances for decay, gum disease, periodontitis and tooth loss are greatly increased. For that reason, it is incredibly important to take even greater care of your teeth in old age compared to the younger age.
The most common cause of teeth loss always was and always will be decay. The chances of decay increases with old age, and the chances of tooth loss along with it.
Yes, it is perfectly safe if proper precautions are taken. Chances of infection are greater with age, so some prior precautions may be needed such as antibiotics and mouthwash to improve oral hygiene before extraction can happen.
Dry mouth, higher chances of decay and gum disease, gum recession, bone loss, mobility and teeth loss are all common with old age.
It is not really a matter of age, but whether your mouth is prepared to receive the implants. If the oral hygiene is good, and the bone condition allows, then implants are a great choice for any age.
On average, Implants cost between $3000 and $5000 each. The price is the same for seniors and other patients, and is generally not covered by insurance. However, insurance can help with the process of getting implants, such as with examinations and scans needed, as well as stitches and aftercare.
It differs from one person to another, but in most cases, you would need a cleaning session at least once every 6 months to 1 year. So do not go an entire year without visiting your dentist, even if you have no specific problem or pain.
The brown color could be due to decay, or could just be staining from years of coffee, smoking and other foods and drinks with high amounts of stains in them.
The cleaning action of saliva is decreased due to decreased flow. In addition, proper brushing and flossing are compromised due to limitation of motion. Finally, nutrition that reaches the gums is decreased due to lowered blood flow. All that leads to a higher chance of gum disease and periodontitis in elderly patients.
Yes they are perfectly safe for the elderly just as they are for younger patients. They are inert structures that strengthen the bone structure and are considered the best tooth replacement option.
Complications of tooth extraction are the same for every age, but they have a greater chance of happening as the age increases since the body’s healing power is reduced. Examples of these complications include dry socket, infection of the socket and delayed healing of the wound.