Seniors and Dental Concerns
Today approximately 60% of people over the age of 65 have all or most of their own teeth. It has been estimated that those people who have most of their own teeth live on the average about 15 years longer than those without or missing most of their teeth.
As a result of people keeping their own teeth and our aging population, a new area of dentistry has evolved. Geriatric dentistry targets the unique problems for the dentist and the elderly patient. Certain problems are observed more often in such patients. Among them are concerns such as dry mouth, inability to brush and floss well, poor diet, and increased gum disease. Additionally, medications may delay or inhibit treatment.
There are precautions that aging patients can take which will help to maintain good oral health. Drinking water and using toothpastes and rinses that have fluoride are important. Brush at least twice a day and floss daily. Electric toothbrushes and flossers are good appliances for those who have lost dexterity or strength in their hands. Checking the oral cavity for side effects of medications and then reporting these to the dentist should be a part of the senior’s routine. If surgery is planned, make sure that all dental care is current before the procedure.
Finally, in many cases, the geriatric patient may have a caregiver. If this is the case, they should be responsible for also caring for the patient’s teeth. They may no longer be able to provide sufficient care on their own.
While aging can present new challenges, preventative care as outlined above should greatly reduce these.