While this seems like a good thing, it is not all smiles. As older adults keep their teeth longer, there are more problems that are likely to arise, which is why keeping up with regular dental visits is so important.
Keeping your adult teeth and mouth healthy can be challenging with aging, and health conditions that can make teeth more vulnerable to dental problems. Don’t go without dental coverage when there are Medicare dental coverage plans available to you.
A lifetime of wear and tear combined with medications, medical conditions and a potential decrease in dental care can cause many oral health problems in seniors. These issues can result in significant tooth pain, bleeding gums, inflamed gums or gum infection.
This article goes over the 5 biggest dental problems to watch for, advice on prevention, treatment and management.
Anyone can get a dental cavity. You can get them on the surface of teeth that have never had problems before, you can also get them around old fillings or at the root of your tooth. As you age, the root of your tooth becomes softer and sometimes more exposed.
A sugary diet, snacking between meals, and a decrease in saliva production all contribute to the build-up of sugar and acid in the mouth. Medical conditions can make tooth care difficult as well. Someone with arthritis may find brushing their teeth to be a difficult and painful task. For someone with dementia, brushing and caring for teeth may be near impossible.
The Fix: Tooth Decay
Fluoride is one of the most important health measures developed in the 20th century, and it isn’t just for kids. Almost 80% of Americans have fluorinated water, if you don’t you should add a daily fluoride rinse to your brushing habit. Even if your water has fluoride, you should consider a fluoride rinse.
If you are starting to get cavities, ask your dentist about a stronger fluoride prescription gel or ask about what is right for you. Preventive measures are always the best approach, remember to brush twice daily with fluoride toothpaste, decrease your sugar intake, and drink water after each meal. Electric toothbrushes may be easier to use, and they are most effective.
If your gums are inflamed, red, or bleed easily, you might have gingivitis. Gingivitis is when the gums inflame due to bacteria build-up where teeth meet gum tissue. This can become periodontitis, which is when the gum pulls away from the tooth and creates pockets, which can become infected.
Periodontal disease is another name for gum disease and is a common problem caused by bacteria in plaque and tartar. If this conditions continues unchecked, it could cause the loss of bones in your jaw and eventually, the loss of the teeth themselves. Smoking can be a huge contributing factor in gum disease.
The Fix: Gum Disease
The best thing you can do for gum disease is to visit your dentist regularly. Your teeth will need to be cleaned and your gums will need to be treated for this condition. People who do not have access to dental care are more likely to develop gum disease.
Be sure to floss and brush daily, then follow the detailed assessment evaluation and treatment plan recommended by your dentist.
The gradual process where gums shrink away from teeth is called receding gums. It can be caused by gum disease or poor dental hygiene, although smoking, teeth grinding, and family history are also potential contributing factors. Teeth can become more sensitive as the root becomes exposed and teeth may appear longer than normal. Untreated, this condition can result in significant oral damage, and a likelihood of tooth loss.
The Fix: Receding Gums
Go to the dentist as soon as possible, treatment options range from deep cleaning or scaling to surgical procedures such as gum grafts. Of course, prevention is the best cure; quit smoking, eat healthy and practice good oral hygiene.
Dry mouth is a known side effect to many medications. Many seniors experience a decrease in saliva production with age. The problem with dry mouth is that saliva protects us against tooth decay. If you are not producing saliva, your teeth are at risk.
The calcium and phosphate present in saliva prevent demineralization of your teeth. If you experience a sticky feeling in your mouth, trouble swallowing, dry throat, or dry, cracked lips you may be suffering from xerostomia, or dry mouth.
With dry mouth you may notice persistent bad breath or a metallic taste in your mouth. Dry mouth can be caused by many things including:
Or a blow to the head that somehow damages the salivary glands
The Fix: Dry Mouth
Stimulating saliva production is one thing you can do for dry mouth. Some people sip water all day, others will chew sugar-free xylitol candies or gum helps. Mouth rinses can also prevent acid build-up. If this doesn’t work, talk to your dentist about prescribing a saliva substitute or recommend over-the-counter formulations for you to try.
Over 43,000 Americans will be diagnosed with oral cancers this year, and more than 8,00 will die from it, according to The Oral Cancer Foundation. Your chance of being diagnosed with oral cancer increases as you get older, and it is very often related to smoking and heavy alcohol use.
Doctor recently discovered that the Human Papillomavirus can cause oral cancer, the number of cases has risen since this discovery. Only about half of people who develop oral cancer survive the disease.
Surving Oral Cancer
The best hope for survival is to discover it at its earliest stage, which would give you an 80% chance of surviving for five years. Regular dental exams are important to ensure dental health. Your dental exam needs to include a check for oral cancer.
When you dentist checks they will hold your tongue and check the soft tissue in your mouth, as well as your throat and jaw. If your dentist isn’t doing this, find a new dentist.
What Else You Need to Know
Seeing a dentist is important, if you think your teeth are in good shape, you could be wrong. Do not wait until you absolutely need dental coverage to get covered.
Some plans have a waiting period, it is important to get the care before it is too late. Most Medicare plans and Healthcare plans for seniors do not include Dental coverage.
There is an awesome baby boomer blog that goes over what Medicare doesn’t cover, I recommend checking it out whether you are new to Medicare or have had Medicare for decades.