Growing older brings with it a variety of struggles, and one of them is oral health care. Elderly people sometimes face difficulties taking care of their teeth and gums, and aging mouths can develop problems. In fact, seniors often lose their teeth because they are unable to properly care for them or they neglect getting professional help.
Why is dental care hard for seniors?
Some of the main reasons that the elderly have trouble with oral care include:
- Arthritis or limited ability to manipulate and control their hands and arms, which can make brushing and flossing difficult.
- Dementia or memory lapses that can cause seniors to forget to care for their teeth and gums.
- Denture wearers may be inexperienced in proper care or neglect good cleaning practices.
How can dental care for seniors be improved?
Caregivers can help the elderly learn new techniques to preserve their oral health. Here are some useful tips to benefit seniors in their goal of a healthy mouth:
- Those with arthritis or other limiting conditions should try adaptations to make dental care easier. For example, attach a bicycle grip or wrap a washcloth around a toothbrush handle for easier grasping.
- Try an electric toothbrush, which may be easier to control than a manual one. They are also great for removing plaque and stimulating gums.
- Use floss holders or cleaners for between the teeth, which are available at drugstores to aid in dental cleaning.
- Ask the dentist about prescription mouthwashes or fluoride rinses to supplement regular brushing and flossing. These additions can help prevent tooth decay and gum disease.
- Ensure only products approved for dentures, such as denture powder or paste, are used for cleaning the appliances. Household cleaners can damage dentures.
- Create a chart to be placed near the sink area to check off each time dental hygiene tasks are performed, so that it’s easier for the elderly person to keep track of dental care.
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There is no reason to continue living with missing, stained, or damaged teeth when dental crowns can rebuild the tooth’s shape, size, strength, and also restore its appearance. A crown completely covers the visible portion of a tooth, adhered with dental cement which helps strengthen the underlying tooth. It can be made from various materials, but one popular choice is porcelain.
Porcelain crowns are useful for many reasons. This dental restoration is used to restore a broken or badly worn tooth, protect a weak tooth before it breaks, cover a tooth that has a very large filling, cover misshapened or discolored teeth, or to make a cosmetic improvement. Also, crowns are used to hold dental bridges in place and to top off dental implants.
Why is porcelain a popular choice for dental crowns?
• One of the main reasons is its natural-looking color, giving crowns a very appealing look so that others can’t even tell you have a restoration.
• Porcelain crowns are a great choice for front teeth weakened by decay or damaged by injuries, because they restore your teeth in a very natural way.
• They are a good solution for patients with metal allergies.
• They are helpful for people who grind or clench their teeth.
• Crowns help dental implants work comfortably with neighboring healthy teeth, and they effectively hold dentures or bridges in place.
• They help lower and upper teeth meet correctly, providing a properly aligned bite.
• Porcelain crowns eliminate the dark line at the edge of the gums that accompanies metal-fused crowns.
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Most people assume that senior adults all properly take care of their teeth by the time they reach that age. That isn’t always the case though, since older people face different oral health issues than they did in their younger years. It’s important for seniors to maintain a smart oral care routine so that their mouth will stay healthy their entire lives. Here are some tips to help accomplish that goal.
Seniors have a higher risk of receding gums and resulting problems like cavities and tooth loss. Brush your teeth at least twice daily with a soft bristled toothbrush, and rinse with mouthwash. Also floss your teeth daily. These tasks remove food and plaque from both your natural teeth and dentures, as well as below the gum line. Be sure to brush your dentures daily too.
See your dentist
Visit your dentist for regular checkups twice a year, whether you have natural teeth or dentures. Your dentist will check for gum disease, oral cancer, as well as clean your teeth and adjust your dentures if needed. Also, make sure you tell your dentist about any medical conditions, medications, allergies, or recent operations you may have had. This will alert him to any potential drug interactions or side effects that might affect your oral health.
Be aware of warning signs that you have a problem, such as red or bleeding gums when you brush. That can indicate an infection or other issue. Also tell your dentist if you have red or white patches inside your mouth, or sores that don’t heal within two weeks, because these may be signs of oral cancer.
Follow denture recommendations
Use the correct amount of denture cream or adhesive. If your dentures are uncomfortable or require using more than one tub of cream every three weeks, have your dentures evaluated by your dentist. An adjustment or replacement may be necessary.
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Take a drink of your refreshing cold beverage, delve into your favorite flavor of ice cream, or have a sip of the perfect coffee concoction. But then, a hundred miniature daggers stab your teeth!! If this is your experience when eating foods that you used to enjoy, you are suffering with overly sensitive teeth.
Your dentist will be able to determine the reasons behind your tooth sensitivity. Often your enamel is worn, exposing the nerves on your teeth and increasing the sensation of anything that comes into contact with them. There are treatments that should help reduce your discomfort and allow you to eat the foods you like. While waiting to see your dentist, here are some things you can try at home to relieve your sensitivity.
Visit the oral products section of your drugstore, and you will find numerous choices of toothpaste to help reduce sensitivity. Try switching to one of the toothpaste options designed for that purpose, or ask your dentist for further toothpaste recommendations.
Watch what you eat
Certain foods trigger discomfort more than others. For example, acidic foods and spicy items tend to hit the tooth nerves. Extreme temperatures of icy cold or piping hot foods and drinks can also cause pain. Dentists advise that you keep a food diary to notice patterns of foods that cause sensitivity so that you’ll be able to cut down on those items until your teeth have improved.
Brushing your teeth can be painful if your teeth are overly sensitive, but it’s not advisable to discontinue brushing. Instead, look for a toothbrush designed for sensitive teeth and brush as gently as possible. Also, remember to floss even though it can sometimes be uncomfortable.
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Advancing age brings with it unique considerations for oral health. Seniors are at higher risk for a variety of dental problems mostly related to the aging process, medication side effects, and inability to properly care for their teeth and gums. Therefore, it’s vital that seniors regularly visit their dentist and learn how to combat oral health problems so that they can keep their mouth healthy as long as possible.
Some of the risks that seniors face include:
• Gum disease—this is caused by plaque buildup, and worsened by poor hygiene, tobacco use, ill-fitting dentures, poor nutrition, and some diseases.
• Tooth loss – gum disease is a primary cause of tooth loss.
• Uneven jawbone – this can result from tooth loss.
• Dry mouth – reduced saliva production is related to medication side effects, cancer treatments, and certain diseases.
• Thrush – immune system issues can lead to the overgrowth of fungus in the mouth.
• Tooth sensitivity – tooth decay can cause exposure of the tooth’s root, which leads to increased sensitivity.
• Darkened teeth – changes in the dentin from age can darken teeth, as well as a lifetime of stain-causing foods and drinks.
• Stomatitis – dentures can cause this inflammation of the tissues under a denture.
Another common problem that seniors experience is trouble performing their dental care routine. Some medical conditions like arthritis can make brushing and flossing difficult. Products are available to assist seniors with these tasks, such as special toothbrushes and oral irrigators. It’s also important to be able to recognize the warning signs of problems, and to see the dentist if any of those occur like pain, mouth sores, swelling, loose teeth, and difficulty chewing or swallowing. Additionally, seniors should see their dentist for checkups every six months just to make sure problems aren’t arising that haven’t been noticed before.
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As we age, our birthdays tend to bring new oral health issues along with them. It’s a fact of life that our teeth and gums are impacted by our age. Here are some common problems to watch for, and suggestions for treatment.
Regular dental checkups and cleanings are vital to avoid gum disease. The first stage is called gingivitis and it’s reversible. If untreated, it can lead to a very serious advanced stage called periodontitis. You may not experience signs of gum disease, so practicing good oral hygiene and seeing your dentist are the best ways to keep it at bay.
If cold or hot foods cause you discomfort, you have a common problem called tooth sensitivity. It can result from decay, worn fillings, gum disease, broken teeth, or exposed roots. Your dentist may recommend toothpastes designed to reduce sensitivity, or other treatments based on the cause of your problem. Good oral hygiene can help with sensitivity also.
If you are missing any teeth, it not only looks unappealing but it can also affect your ability to eat and speak. Your other teeth may move, and bone loss can occur. Discuss treatment options with your dentist because you might be able to restore your smile. Bridges, implants, and dentures are a few of the dental advances that might help.
Medicines and some health conditions often cause your mouth to be overly dry. Having a dry mouth is uncomfortable, but it also can seriously impact your teeth and gums. Without saliva to naturally clean your mouth, the risks of tooth decay and other problems increase. Ask your dentist to look for signs of decay, and to help you identify the cause for your dry mouth. Be sure to tell your dentist about your medical history and medications.
Oral cancer can include your gums, lips, cheeks, tongue, jaw, throat, or soft palate. It sometimes begins with just a tiny spot or swollen area, so regular dental checkups can help catch this disease early. A variety of treatment options are available, but early detection makes a difference.
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If you’ve got the idea that everyone eventually loses their teeth due to the aging process, you’ve got it wrong. It’s true that your mouth changes as you age, but it’s not inevitable that you’ll lose your teeth. If properly cared for, you can keep your teeth your whole life. Let’s learn how to accomplish the goal of healthy teeth that last a lifetime.
Visit the dentist
As you age, the nerves inside your teeth decrease. This leaves your teeth less sensitive to the signs of cavities. This is one reason regular dental checkups are so important for seniors, so that tooth decay or other problems can be diagnosed at an early stage.
Dentists suggest drinking tap water instead of bottled water, at least some of the time. Most tap water contains fluoride, which helps prevent tooth decay for people of all ages. Using a fluoride mouth rinse may also be helpful, and certainly using fluoride toothpaste is advised.
Practice good hygiene
Brush at least twice a day with a soft-bristled toothbrush, preferably after each meal. Electric toothbrushes may also be helpful, especially for seniors who sometimes have difficulty using objects like a toothbrush. Also, floss every day to remove debris and plaque between your teeth.
Care for dentures
If you wear partial or full dentures, clean them daily. Remove them from your mouth for at least four hours a day; most patients remove them at night.
Tobacco use increases your risk for oral and lung cancers, as well as gum disease, tooth decay, and tooth loss.
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As approximately 70 million Baby Boomers start to reach their Golden years, dental health issues can become a concern. Although the aging process does have an impact on dental health, proper care of teeth and gums can ensure the lasting beauty of your smile. Knowing what to look for can help you take precautions and keep your oral health in tip-top shape.
Dental issues as we get older can include:
Old dental fillings that leak – At one time, amalgam (metal or silver) fillings were the standard in dental care. Over time, these fillings can change shape, resulting in cracks or leaks. If you have metal fillings, have your dentist look for any problem areas and then discuss replacement options with your doctor. Composite fillings are commonly used now because they match natural tooth coloring and allow for more conservative repairs.
Periodontal disease – Though you may not exhibit symptoms initially, periodontal disease (also known as gum disease) can wreak havoc on your mouth. Caused by bacteria that create infections beneath the gum line, periodontal disease is the number one cause of tooth loss in adults. Bleeding or swollen gums are the early signs of gum disease, so contact your dentist immediately if you are experiencing these symptoms.
Missing teeth – Estimates suggest that 69 percent of adults have lost at least one tooth. Missing teeth not only make you feel self-conscious, but they can also cause oral health problems, including shifting and alignment issues. Dental implants or dentures can restore the appearance and functionality of your smile.
Dark, stained or worn-looking teeth – With age, our teeth naturally yellow or darken. Cosmetic dentistry options, such as teeth whitening or porcelain veneers, can take years off your appearance.Read More »
Even with good home care, you will probably need a filling at some point. Restorative work of any kind, including inlays, onlays, or crowns, can renew the strength and beauty of your smile. Once you have dental work completed in your mouth, you need to make choices that will preserve these restorations. The following helpful hints will allow you to enjoy a bright, lasting smile:
Avoid hard substances
Chewing certain candies, foods, and ice can damage natural tooth enamel, which means these items can have an even greater impact on dental work.
Choose toothpaste wisely
Stay away from toothpastes that contain harsh abrasives. These substances can cause your restorations to look dull and faded.
Make cleaning a priority
Areas with dental work can provide an easy target for cavity-causing bacteria, so make sure you brush and floss regularly.
Watch for signs of teeth grinding
Also called bruxism, teeth grinding is often a subconscious action that can wear down your teeth. Your dentist can evaluate your mouth and determine if you need a night guard, a custom oral appliance to keep you from grinding your teeth.
Schedule dental checkups
For optimal oral health, you should visit the dentist every six months. At these appointments, your dentist can evaluate your restorations and make sure they are holding up well. The hygienist will also clean and polish teeth, restoring your smile’s vibrancy.
Contact the dentist if you have trouble
You may have a filling chip or a crown break despite your best efforts. Call the dentist’s office right away so that they can repair the area and prevent more damage.
As we age, unique situations develop that impact our oral health care. There are physical limitations, medication side effects, and age-related dental problems that all come together to present special challenges for seniors. Let’s consider the oral health problems that can arise as a person gets older.
Many older adults have problems brushing and flossing their teeth properly. Some medical issues like arthritis affect movement, and make performing hygiene tasks difficult. It can be frustrating because brushing and flossing probably were easy for most in younger years, but become hard or even impossible with age. Dentists suggest using an electric toothbrush for easier control, and visiting the office regularly for thorough cleanings.
Medication side effects
Certain medications and health conditions have side effects that can impact oral health. Dry mouth is a common result, which increases the risk of tooth decay and gum disease. The issue may worsen when seniors choose to suck hard candy to supply moisture, but it can contribute to dental problems too. Instead, seniors with dry mouth should drink lots of water, chew sugarless gum, and use fluoride toothpaste and mouthwash. Dentists can also prescribe medications to increase saliva production.
Seniors who wear dentures should make sure they fit properly so they don’t cause mouth irritation or more serious oral health problems. Also, cleaning dentures as instructed and examining the appliance for good condition are both helpful. Denture replacement is often necessary every 7-10 years.
Older patients may choose to find a dentist who specializes in senior oral health care, and is experienced in meeting their unique needs. Senior dental care often requires a blend of expertise, compassion, and patience in order to earn the patient’s trust and create a positive dental experience.