Senior Dental Care
You are never too old to take good care of your gums and teeth.”
For many years, our team of specialists has taken care of senior citizens, most of whom have medical conditions that need to be considered when receiving dental treatment. Like children whose medical needs are best managed by paediatric dentists, senior citizens have unique dental conditions that a team like ours is well placed and experienced to address.
- Relationship between oral and general health
- The importance of good dental health amongst seniors
- Common dental problems in seniors
Relationship Between Oral and General Health
Just as the eyes are windows to the soul, so is the mouth a window into one’s overall health. Researchers have found that many diseases in the rest of the body have oral symptoms. Careful examination of the teeth, gums, and tongue can help detect some conditions such as eating disorders, diet deficiencies, anemia, diabetes and even certain autoimmune diseases.
The connection between oral and general health goes both ways – dental problems can also have adverse effects on general health. Studies have shown a strong correlation between gum and heart diseases and this is thought to be because bacteria from the mouth can enter the bloodstream and get lodged in the heart valves, damaging and eventually destroying the heart tissues.
Taking care of elderly teeth and gums is therefore important as oral health can affect overall health. When chewing and eating are compromised, the resulting nutritional deficiencies can compound existing medical conditions and thereby hinder their full recovery. Diabetic seniors with gum diseases will experience delayed healing.
The Importance of Good Dental Health Amongst Seniors
A report in the Straits Times on Thursday 2 September 2010 titled “Many over-50s not eating properly” cited trouble chewing or swallowing as one of the main reasons.
Whether or not a senior has his or her natural teeth or is wearing a denture, a little help from us can go a long way because the single most important reason for having good dental health at that age is its contribution towards optimum overall health via good nutrition.
Common Dental Problems in Seniors
The aging process can often create subtle and/or dramatic changes in the condition of teeth, mouth, and gums and will need to be monitored more often than at other stages of life:
- Plaque accumulates more around the teeth as we age and it becomes more difficult for seniors to maintain a good standard of oral hygiene. That is why it is even more important for seniors to schedule professional teeth cleaning at least twice a year, as they are more susceptible to dental diseases that can adversely affect their general health.
- Gingivitis is caused by bacteria found in plaque that attack the gums making them red, swollen, and bleed when you brush. If left untreated, gingivitis can lead to gum disease that will dissolve the bone that holds your teeth, resulting in tooth loss, especially if you have osteoporosis. Timely treatment can reduce recession, bleeding, and even strengthen the bones to hold your teeth in place. Illness, medication, poor nutrition and oral hygiene can worsen gum diseases. By treating gum diseases and repairing decayed teeth early, you can chew and eat with comfort and ease again.
The US Surgeon General’s Report states 23% of older adults aged 65-74 have severe periodontal disease with men being more likely to have a more severe disease!
- Gum recession exposes tooth roots making them sensitive and vulnerable to decay hence the saying that someone is “long in the tooth”. Brushing too hard and for too long can cause wear patterns on the teeth and injury to the gums. Two minutes is a good marker for correct brushing length of time.
- Root surface decay is a widespread and often serious problem in older populations and can be difficult to restore. Root decay advances more quickly than decay on enamel as the root surface is softer. The use of toothpaste and mouthrinses with high fluoride content can help strengthen tooth enamel and reduce decay susceptibility. Fluoride-containing filling materials are also used to treat decay.
Dental cavity rates in older adults has increased 31% in the last 10 years!
- Dry mouth or xerostomia is one of the major senior problems especially if they have chronic medical conditions as there are 400 medications known to cause dry mouth. There is inadequate saliva to lubricate and moisten the mouth to wash away the acids produced by plaque resulting in tooth decay. A dry mouth also dramatically increases the likelihood of gum diseases and recession. Drinking lots of water, using artificial saliva, special toothpaste, and chewing gum, as well as avoiding sweets, tobacco, alcohol, and caffeine can help you manage a dry mouth.
- Older fillings may weaken and/or crack, allowing bacteria to accumulate around the edges of these fillings causing decay. Many people over 50 have decay on both their teeth and root surfaces. Nowadays, we have excellent filling materials that can protect your teeth and make them look good at the same time.
- Oral cancer occurs most often in people over 40. If you notice any red or white patches on your gums or tongue, or observe sores that fail to heal within two weeks, please notify us. This disease is often painless and difficult to diagnose in its early stages. It is especially important to see us at least yearly if you wear dentures so that gum tissues can be examined as early signs of oral cancer can be detected during regular dental exams.
- Missing teeth are common amongst seniors due to decay or gum diseases. Replacing the missing teeth will provide support for cheeks and lips, and prevent facial muscles from sagging. Teeth-replacement methods make most patients look younger after treatment and give them the confidence to smile and eat comfortably again.
- Bone resorption occurs over time in areas where teeth are missing and is most evident when a person has lost all the teeth. The jawbones begin to shrink away, leading to the jaw continually “remodeling” itself. Bone loss makes wearing a denture difficult as there is less grip for denture stability. Dentures that once fit well start slipping. The profile of the person also collapses adding to an aged look.
- Ill-fitting dentures can cause so much difficulty in eating that elderly patients start to limit the kind of food they eat due to pain, frustration or embarrassment, and the resultant poor nutrition will compound any illnesses or diseases they may have. This can be managed with techniques such as relining or remaking the dentures or more commonly, by making implant-supported dentures, which are far more stable. The latter fit more snugly than traditional dentures so that eating different food should not be a problem.
- Seniors have unique dental problems. Some of these have a mouth-body connection.
- A dentist can often diagnose certain medical problems before they are identified by your doctor.
- Early treatment of cavities and gum disease can reduce the need for more extensive and expensive treatments later.
- Untreated dental condition can have a significant impact on a senior’s quality of life.
- Good dental health is crucial to ensure good nutrition amongst seniors.
- A good way to achieve and maintain good oral health is to see your dentist at least every six months for a thorough cleaning and check up.
- Implantdontics has a team of specialists experienced in senior dental care and we are also able to work closely with your physicians and surgeons.
- We are fully wheel-chair accessible and the building has handicapped parking.
- We are conversant in several languages and Chinese dialects.
- We are able to make house calls for the convenience of seniors who are less mobile.
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We can help you reach your goal of optimum oral health at any age.