The good news is that American adults are living longer. The average age in the United States is increasing, so it is important to maintain good oral health habits for teeth to continue to function properly. Older Americans need to maintain a healthy diet and have regular check-ups with their dentist. The elderly often take a variety of medications (on average 9 to 13 prescriptions per month) which may have side effects that can impact your oral health. Chronic health conditions may also be a risk factor for periodontal disease or tooth loss for older adults.
Osteoporosis is a disease that weakens bones.
Osteoporosis leads to loss of bone density and often adversely impacts elderly women. As bones weaken and fracture, the teeth that are to be supported, are affected. Teeth will become loose without sufficient bone support. There are antiresorptive medications that may help reduce bone loss as a result of osteoporosis. However, these medications have side effects that may damage the jawbone. Use of these medications must be carefully managed with regular dental visits to identify any potential issues with the jawbone.
Antihypertensive medications may lead to dry mouth.
Dry mouth is a risk factor in the elderly that may cause teeth to decay and lead to cavities. To help alleviate dry mouth, older adults should do their best to remain hydrated. It is also beneficial to use oral products containing xylitol (an anticaries agent), to help stimulate salivary flow. The use of products with fluoride also help to mineralize enamel.
Alzheimer’s disease may affect the oral health of elderly adults.
Alzheimer’s disease is a form of dementia that affects motor and cognitive abilities, which may make it difficult for an elderly adult to keep up with their oral health routine. As Alzheimer’s disease progresses, the person with dementia may forget how to brush their teeth or forget why it is important to maintain good oral hygiene. Caregivers will often have to assist or take a more hands-on approach to help their loved ones maintain proper oral care. Regular dental check-ups and cleaning and flossing teeth will help avoid more extensive procedures later on for eldery patients with dementia. Signs of inadequate oral care include swollen or bleeding gums, halitosis or visible tartar build up.
If you or someone you know is experiencing dry mouth or tooth sensitivity, call us to schedule a comprehensive oral exam. Dr. Melchers and his experienced staff care about your overall wellness and are here to address all of your oral health care issues. Contact us today to see how we can best meet your dental care needs.