Oral Health Issues in Aging & How to Prevent Them

The good habits you developed as a child to help care for your teeth continue to be important throughout your life. But as we age, we become more likely to experience additional oral health issues.

Knowing what these problems are, what they look like, and what you can do to treat or prevent them can help you keep your teeth healthy.

Gum Disease

Gum disease can develop at any age, but older adults are more likely to experience it. The condition can put your gums at serious risk for infection and disease.

Gum disease is more than just an annoyance. It has been directly linked to an increased prevalence of heart disease, although a direct causation has not yet been found. If your gums aren’t healthy, it’s time to take notice.

A strong oral care routine that includes daily brushing, flossing and possibly mouthwash can all help to prevent this condition. If you believe you have developed gum disease, or are at risk, schedule an appointment with your dentist or periodontist to seek treatment.

Staining

As we age, teeth become more susceptible to staining. Foods and substances such as tobacco, fruit juices, coffee, teas, and colas can all contribute to teeth stains. Aging can also cause the enamel on the teeth to wear thin, causing yellowing.

If you’ve developed an unsightly stain on your teeth, talk to you dentist about what you can do to improve their appearance. Some over-the-counter teeth whitening products may help some types of stains, but a visit to a cosmetic dentist may be necessary for deeply rooted stains. You should be aware that some tooth-whitening products can damage gums, so always ask your dentist before investing in one.

Oral Cancer

Aging also puts you at higher risk of oral cancers, particularly if you’ve been a smoker at any part of your life. A tell-tale sign of oral cancer occurs when a sore develops in your mouth that does not improve. If you’ve experienced such a sore with no improvement within two weeks, make an appointment with your dentist so you can be screened for oral cancer.

Dry Mouth

Another common problem for older adults is dry mouth. Dry mouth occurs when your mouth fails to produce enough saliva. Dry mouth is often a side effect of medications, and older adults may need to take such medications to treat other age-related conditions. Because saliva naturally protects the teeth and decreases your risk of cavities, dry mouth may leave you vulnerable to oral health issues.

Sugary mints or gum may temporarily relieve the issue, but will also increase your risk of developing cavities or other oral health issues. Instead, use sugarless candies or gum to help your mouth retain and produce saliva. You can also talk to your doctor or dentist about other options for treatment.

About the Author

Darla Scheidt
Grove Dental Associates

The information on this article is not intended or implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Tooth Wisdom® and Oral Health America do not recommend or endorse any specific dentists, products, procedures, opinions, or other information mentioned. See full Terms & Conditions.

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