Why Do So Many Elderly Struggle With Oral Health?
There are many reasons why those over 65 tend to find it more difficult to maintain good oral health. But the idea that losing your teeth as you age is "inevitable" is simply not true. If you do lose them, modern dental implants are available, but with good care, most people can keep their teeth for life.
First of all, simple actions like brushing your teeth and flossing become more difficult as we age. That's why it's a good idea to watch over your elderly loved one's oral health and provide necessary assistance - plus remind him or her to schedule an annual dental exam!
But also, the nerves inside of your teeth actually shrink as you age, which makes them less sensitive to the onset of cavities. That, along with a lack of regular dental visits, explains why around a third of older adults in the US have an untreated cavities.
Consider that gum recession may have already exposed tooth roots, and those cavities could hit teeth at the base and destroy them. This underscored the importance of proactive periodontal examinations and treatment. Gum disease, of one sort or another, is the leading cause of tooth loss among older adults.
We'll mention one more reason why oral health declines, typically, in the elderly: dry mouth. Many elderly people suffer from dry mouth, which has two main contributing factors: the tendency for less saliva to be produced in out mouths as we age and the side effects of many prescription drugs which elderly people may take regularly.
Steps To Take To Keep A Healthy Mouth For Life
Contrary to popular myth, age itself is not a true risk factor for tooth and gum conditions. The problem is that many of the real risk factors do, in fact, occur at higher rates among those over 65.
There are really only a few simple steps to take to maximize your chances of maintaining sterling oral health regardless of age:
- Always brush, floss, and use an antiseptic mouth rinse twice daily. Use soft bristled brushes so you don't hurt your gums and use a alternative interdental cleaners if floss is hard to handle.
- Eat a nutritious diet consistently and drink plenty of water.
- If you use dentures, clean them every day.
- Get a dental exam and tooth cleaning done at least once a year, and preferably, twice a year.