Growing old may seem unreal to most people. While you may think and feel like a teenager, your face, dental health, and body will show the actual signs of your age. Some people may opt to spend money on cosmetic surgery and dentistry to look younger. Others may resort to a more active lifestyle to make themselves look and feel youthful. But how should we deal with senior dental care?
No matter what we do to look younger, there are dental problems linked to aging. Over time, aging humans are subject to biological change and other adjustments associated with growing old.
Aging and Dental Health
Advancing age puts many seniors at risk to several oral health problems, such as:
- Reduced saliva production that causes dry mouth
- Denture-induced stomatitis or thrush due to buildup of the fungus Candida albicans
- Ill-fitting dentures caused by tooth crowding, shifting teeth, and receding gums
- Increased odds of developing gum disease
- More occurrences of tooth decay
- Higher odds of developing oral cancer
- Darkened teeth caused by changes in the dentin – may be a sign of a more severe problem
- A diminished sense of taste
- Uneven jawbone
Jawbones help define a person’s face and provide a stable surface for which teeth can anchor. Studies show that jaws can shrink over time resulting in tooth overcrowding in senior mouths. However, the jawbone is not the only body part affected by aging. Every organ, hair follicle, and tooth change as we grow old. Even a person’s smile may appear different in old age due to a shrunken jaw and lessened skin elasticity.
Still, a person’s age is not the sole factor in deciding oral health. Certain medical conditions, such as arthritis in the hands, may make brushing or flossing teeth difficult. Medications can also influence oral health and may cause a change in dental treatments necessary.
Tips on Senior Dental Care
Senior dental care is essential to ensure that older adults lower their risk of any potential dental problems. To maintain good oral health, it is necessary for all individuals, regardless of age, to do the following:
- Brush with a fluoride-containing toothpaste at least twice a day
- Floss at least once a day
- Wash off the mouth with an antiseptic mouthwash once or twice a day
- Have a regular appointment with your dentist for a cleaning and an oral exam
Daily brushing and flossing of natural teeth are essential to keeping them in excellent health. Plaque can build up fast on the teeth of seniors, especially if they neglect oral hygiene. An antibacterial mouth rinse can reduce bacteria that cause tooth decay and gum disease.
Financial Aid for Senior Dental Care
Some dentists offer their services at reduced fees through assistance programs, if you are a senior on a limited income. Because aid varies from one community to another, call your local dental society for information. They can help you find the nearest assistance programs and low-cost care locations. You can also check online, your local phone book, or your local dental society.