Common Dental Issues as You Age
As we get older, our overall health is on our mind more and more. We take precautions, attend regular checkup appointments with our doctor that we’d normally avoid (shhh), adjust our diet and exercise to prolong the quality of our lives, and we don’t ignore warning signs that something may be off with our bodies. But there is one area of our health we often put on the back burner and seem to forget about as we age. That area is our oral and dental health.
According to the World Health Organization, oral health is the state of the mouth, teeth and orofacial structures that enables individuals to perform essential functions such as eating, breathing and speaking, and encompasses psychosocial dimensions such as self-confidence, well-being and the ability to socialize and work without pain, discomfort and embarrassment. Oral health varies over the life course from early life to old age, is integral to general health and supports individuals in participating in society and achieving their potential.
As you age, you may struggle with keeping your smile as healthy as you are used to, but do not be too concerned, aging makes you more susceptible to dental health problems, so you are not alone. Luckily, at Willow Springs Dental we are proud to call ourselves the best dentist in Las Vegas, and we are here to help you. One of the most important steps in managing your oral health as you age is to be properly educated on what to look out for, what is commonly seen in oral and dental and oral health as patients age, and what you can do to make sure your oral health is the best it can be. Keep reading to learn about the most common dental problems for elderly patients, and what you should be on the look out for!
According to the Center for Disease Control, nearly all adults who are aged 65 years or older, around 96%, have had a cavity. And one in five of those adults have untreated tooth decay. Tooth decay is one of the larger problems seen amongst elderly patients, and this is often caused by a buildup of tartar and plaque on ones’ teeth. If this goes on for too long, what will happen is your gums will start to recede, which will eventually expose the root of the decaying tooth/teeth. Yes, decaying teeth can affect the aesthetic of your smile as well as your confidence. But even more concerning is that tooth decay will affect your quality of life and confidence even more if you do not get it treated. Tooth decay will eventually result in a cavity, causing inflammation, pain, the potential of infection, and worst-case scenario, the loss of the decaying tooth or teeth all together.
As we just mentioned, tooth loss can be a result of decaying teeth that go untreated, but there are multiple other factors that can contribute to tooth loss. Many people are under the impression that something sudden and dramatic has to happen for tooth loss, but that is not the case. The Center of Disease Control reports that around 20% of adults who are aged 65 or older have lost all of their teeth, and complete tooth loss is twice as prevalent among adults aged 75 and older. Long lasting habits such as smoking or poor dental hygiene are often common reasons for tooth loss, but tooth loss can also come as a result of long-term inflammation of the gums.
It is not uncommon for the elderly population to treat their tooth loss with dentures, which are prosthetic devices that are designed to look and work similar to natural teeth. Though dentures are a good fix for some, they don’t come without negative side effects. In fact, those who wear dentures or are experiencing tooth loss in general do not just suffer through their oral health but can also begin to experience the negative consequences in their overall general health. Many individuals with missing teeth prefer to eat soft foods that cause them less discomfort, which means their nutrition begins to suffer with the lack of nutrients being consumed from harder foods such as fruits and vegetables.
Periodontal Disease, or gum disease, is another large concern amongst elderly dental patients. The Center of Disease Control reports that about 68%, or two out of every three adults who are 65 years or older have gum disease. “Periodontal diseases are mainly the result of infections and inflammation of the gums and bone that surround and support the teeth. In its early stage, called gingivitis, the gums can become swollen and red, and they may bleed. In its more serious form, called periodontitis, the gums can pull away from the tooth, bone can be lost, and the teeth may loosen or even fall out.” (Center of Disease Control)
So Now What?
Hearing about the various ways your oral health can suffer as you age can be overwhelming and even discouraging. But being educated is one of the best ways to ensure your oral health is made a priority as you age. In addition, the number one way to prevent or even treat these issues is to ensure you get your routine dental exams and cleanings. Here at Willow Springs Dental, we provide all of the dental services you could need, as well as basic dental exams and cleanings, which we suggest you attend about every six months. During these appointments, we will be sure to do everything we can to help prevent issues such as tooth decay, tooth loss, and gum disease, and are able to identify early on if there are any issues so we can get to the root of the problem right away. Let us take care of you at your Summerlin dentist, so your oral health can be one less thing you have to worry about. Give us a call today or contact us online to schedule your next oral exam!