With age, comes wisdom. Unfortunately, age also brings more oral health problems. Check out these statistics from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC):
- About 2 in 3 (68%) adults aged 65 years or older have gum disease.
- 96% of adults 65 and older have had a cavity.
- 1 out of 5 adults over 65 years old are living with untreated tooth decay.
- “Nearly 1 in 5 of adults aged 65 or older have lost all of their teeth. Complete tooth loss is twice as prevalent among adults aged 75 and older (26%) compared with adults aged 65-74 (13%).”
- Oral cancer is more common among adults with the median age being 62 years old.
Based on these numbers, Houston dentists are striving to provide quality dental care to Houston senior citizens. In order to understand why oral health problems are more prevalent among adults over 60, it’s necessary to review the dental issues this age group faces.
A common dental issue for older adults is dry mouth. Unfortunately, dry mouth is a cause of cavities. According to the American Dental Association (ADA), “Dry mouth is not a normal part of aging. However, it is a side-effect in more than 500 medications, including those for allergies or asthma, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, pain, anxiety or depression, Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s diseases.” Many older adults are being treated for these health issues. As a result of their medications, they suffer dry mouth, and subsequently, other dental issues.
If dry mouth is an issue for you, speak with your doctor about possibly switching medications. You can also find relief by drinking more water and using oral moisturizers (such as mouthwash) and lozenges. Additionally, you should avoid food and beverages that cause dry mouth, such as alcohol and carbonated sodas.
According to Colgate, “One of the major causes of tooth loss in adults, gum disease–Sometimes referred to as periodontal disease–is caused by plaque forming on teeth.” Unfortunately, many adults miss the early warning signs of gum disease until it has become serious. Essentially, when untreated, the gums recede so much that the teeth lose support from the gums, ligaments, and bone. By visiting your dentist regularly, you can prevent serious gum disease since it will be detected and treated sooner rather than later.
The American Cancer Society predicts “about 53,260 people will get oral cavity or oropharyngeal cancer” and “an estimated 10,750 people will die of these cancers” in 2020. As we mentioned earlier, the average age most of these cancers are diagnosed is 62 years old. Oral cancers can be found on the tongue, tonsils, oropharynx, gums, the floor of the mouth, and other parts of the mouth. Since early detection saves lives, it is important to regularly see your dentist. Your dentist can check for any oral cancer signs.
Additionally, you should make an appointment with your dentist if you notice any of the following:
- Open sores
- Changes to your tongue, mouth, or lips that last for two weeks
- White or red patches in the mouth
The Effects of Cancer
According to the National Cancer Institute, “The median age of a cancer diagnosis is 66 years […] One-quarter of new cancer cases are diagnosed in people aged 65 to 74.” This statistic applies to all cancers – not just oral cancer. In addition to oral cancer, other types of cancer can do damage to your oral health.
For instance, ADA explains, “More than one-third of all cancer patients develop complications that affect the mouth […] These mild to severe side effects can include mouth sores, infection, dry mouth, sensitive gums and jaw pain.” Unfortunately, cancer treatments, such as chemotherapy and radiation therapy, affect your dental health.
Attrition is a fancy way to say “wear and tear.” You’ve used your teeth throughout your life, so naturally, they will experience some wear and tear as you age. As a result, you are more at risk for cavities as the enamel on your teeth is worn out over time.
As you grow older, your gums will start to recede. As your gums recede, your teeth are more exposed. This can lead to sensitive teeth. Fortunately, many patients can treat their sensitive teeth naturally or with over-the-counter remedies. In extreme cases, your dentist may have to prescribe something stronger or perform a dental procedure.
If you have spent your life drinking coffee and red wine and dining on spaghetti, your teeth will stain. This is why many older adults have teeth that appear more yellow than their younger counterparts. According to WebMD, darkened teeth are “also caused by thinning of the outer enamel layer that lets the darker yellower dentin show through.”
Another reason senior adults have poor dental health is because of issues stemming from arthritis. Painful arthritis can make it difficult to brush and floss teeth. If this is a problem for you, speak with your Houston dentist about dental tools that will make it easier to maintain healthy oral care habits.
Sadly, many senior citizens suffer from dental health issues due to financial burdens. Unfortunately, Medicare does not cover routine dental visits. As a result, many senior adults stop going to the dentist annually upon retirement. If you are living on a fixed income, look for dental insurance plans or discount dental plans you can afford.
Maintain Good Oral Hygiene Habits
The best way to avoid the types of dental health issues we’ve discussed is to maintain good oral hygiene habits. This means brushing and flossing daily. Additionally, you should pay attention to your mouth. If you notice issues with your teeth or your mouth, make an appointment to visit your Houston dental practice before the problem worsens. With this in mind, it is important to visit your dentist for a routine checkup and cleaning. Your dentist will help you identify any potential issues before they become big problems.
Schedule an appointment with Greenspoint Dental in Houston today!