Common Dental Problems as You Age
As you age, your mind and body experience many changes. The aging process affects all aspects of the body, and your teeth and gums are no exception. Aging can contribute to a host of dental problems, such as dry mouth which can lead to cavities. Left unaddressed, age-related dental problems can worsen, causing teeth to become infected, damaged, chipped, or otherwise compromised. For this reason, it’s important for older adults to be aware of all the tooth and gum issues that may accompany the aging process. Below are some of the most common issues older adults may experience.
Periodontal or gum disease is caused by the harmful bacteria found in plaque buildup. Gum disease can cause chronic mouth irritation, swelling, and bleeding. Yet, in its earliest stages, it’s a painless condition that’s often left undiagnosed and untreated. In fact, most cases of gum disease aren’t diagnosed until the condition has reached an advanced stage. Since it progresses over a lifetime, advanced periodontal disease is most likely to appear in older adults. Advanced periodontal disease attacks the gums, as well as the ligaments and bone supporting the teeth. This destruction leads to massive tooth damage and loss. Without treatment, the gums may also pull away from the teeth and form deep pockets that trap plaque and food. It’s one of the major reasons many older adults wear full dentures. With that said, other dental interventions may be effective in slowing the disease’s progression if it’s detected early enough.
While cavities are often viewed as a pediatric dental issue, older adulthood actually increases susceptibility to cavities. Oftentimes, cavities in older adults are caused by dry mouth. While dry mouth can be a normal part of aging, it can also be caused by certain medications, especially those prescribed for high cholesterol, high blood pressure, Alzheimer’s or dementia-related diseases, and chronic pain. Since these medications are often prescribed to older adults, this population is most likely to experience dry mouth. This frustrating symptom diminishes the production of saliva which eliminates harmful bacteria, thus leading to cavities. If you’re an aging adult, it’s therefore critically important to inform your dentist of all the medications you’re taking. Any reputable dental clinic Sherwood Park has to offer should recommend individualized preventive care plans to keep cavities at bay. For instance, adults with dry mouth may benefit from using specially-formulated dental products and scheduling cleanings at frequent intervals.
Unfortunately, most cases of oral or mouth, throat, and tongue cancer occur in elderly adults. With that being said, most dentists are able to detect signs of these illnesses during regular dental exams. In its earliest stages, oral cancer is typically symptom-free, so early detection is paramount. While abnormalities might go unnoticed by the patient, dentists can perform a thorough visual inspection to spot even the smallest irregularities. As with most forms of cancer, treatment for oral cancer is most effective when introduced early on. Therefore, it’s even more important to visit your dentist regularly as you age.