Common Dental Issues in Seniors

You may have prided yourself on your oral health when you were young and expected that your good daily habits would help you coast through older age. However, your teeth — and all the improvements you made to them, including straightening and veneers — change over the decades. And they all need extra maintenance.

Even if you’ve kept your teeth bright and white and never needed appliances or improvements, such as veneers or bridges, other dental conditions potentially affect virtually everyone, no matter what their history. Four common dental issues that come up frequently for seniors are: 

At Dental Town DC, in Washington, DC, Samira Shenasi, DDS, and our team believe that oral health is the keystone to overall health. Strong, healthy, bright white teeth also make you look and feel more youthful. Here are some common issues that come with age, and the best solutions.

Stained, dingy teeth

Let’s just say you never drank coffee. Or tea. Or red wine. Or ate a single blueberry. Yeah, right! 

But even if you kept every stain-producing beverage and food away from your precious teeth, you probably have noticed that your pearlies aren’t quite iridescent anymore. Just as your skin thins with age, so does the hard, thick enamel that protects your teeth.

When the enamel thins, it becomes more transparent. Even if the outside of your teeth is stain-free, your thin enamel reveals the naturally yellowish, dingy tinge of your inner tooth, known as the dentin. 

As you get older, your teeth are also less resistant to the staining properties of foods, beverages, and tobacco. Including blueberries and some herbal teas.

Over-the-counter whitening solutions trade strength for safety, so you’ll see limited benefits that take weeks or longer to appear. In contrast, our professional teeth whitening services with Philips Zoom!® bleach your teeth from the inside out, removing stains and toning down the yellowish dentin, too.

A Zoom session whitens your teeth up to eight shades in just under an hour. The professional strength whitener contains amorphous calcium phosphate to help strengthen your enamel.

Insufficient saliva

Your saliva not only makes it easier to talk and helps you digest your food, it also protects your teeth from sugar and acid. Saliva even dilutes cavity-causing bacteria, to reduce your risk for cavities.

As you age, however, your salivary glands may not produce enough saliva, leading to a condition known as xerostomia, or dry mouth. Xerostemia may occur as a result of conditions like diabetes, or Sjogren’s syndrome, among others, or as a medication side effect.

Xerostemia can be rough on your teeth, since they now lack their protective barrier of saliva. Severe tooth decay can occur more easily when your mouth is dry. To keep those salivary glands active, try eating sugar-free candy or use a mouth rinse designed to help dry mouth. We can recommend one, if you’re unsure.

Irritated or infected gums

About 70% of Americans older than 65 have gum disease, more than any other age group. Gum disease can hit you even if you’re on top of your dental care at home. Risk factors for gum disease include:

If you don’t treat gum disease, your gums could start to recede and your teeth may fall out. To keep your gums healthy, your hygiene efforts may need to stretch beyond brushing and flossing. Mouth guards and gum shields can reduce nighttime teeth clenching and grinding. Ask us if an oral appliance can benefit you. 

Oral cancer

As you age, you’re more susceptible to all kinds of cancers, including oral cancer. If you smoke or chew tobacco, your risk increases. You can minimize your risk of developing oral cancer by quitting smoking or tobacco use. 

Pay attention to any sores developing in your mouth that don’t heal, since they could be an early sign of a tumor. Mention any such issue to us. We also examine your mouth for signs of oral cancer during each biannual exam or during any checkup.

If you have any of the issues of aging teeth, or if your dental bridge, veneers, or other appliances need adjusting or updating, contact our office at Dental Town DC today. Call our friendly staff or use our online scheduling tool.

 

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