The Importance Of Oral Health In Aging Adults
Dental health is an important aspect of overall health at any stage of life. Over the course of our lives, our teeth are subjected to years and years of wear and tear. Teeth get worn down from chewing, grinding, and plain old use. If we are not careful in our old age, we might be susceptible to tooth loss or gum disease. So, why do we have more of a risk of tooth loss as we age? As we get older, the enamel protecting our teeth gets worn away allowing bacteria normally found in our mouths to settle into our teeth and cause issues if not taken care of properly.
The growing need for oral health for the elderly is not an issue to be taken lightly. Compared to the beginning of the 1900s, the population of people growing into their 80s has dramatically increased. This growing age group means the need for dental health into advanced age has become an important and necessary topic. Instilling proper dental practices in children from a young age will teach them that dental health is important at every stage of life. Setting the stage early with young children will ensure that the importance of dental health follows them throughout their life and into adulthood.
Certain lifestyles can also contribute to tooth decay and loss in old age. Smoking at any age will decrease oral health and increase the risk of tooth loss. Smoking also increases the risk of oral cancer tenfold. If you are concerned about your oral health and aging, consider curbing your smoking habit, as it will benefit not only your dental health but your overall health as well. Overconsumption of sugary food and drinks can also contribute to dental decay and loss. Taking care to not overdo the daily consumption of sugar will help to prevent premature dental loss and decay.
For those reaching retirement age, some questions or concerns may arise, most related to medical insurances and coverage. As you move into retirement, you may find that coverage for dental health is reduced drastically or not covered at all. This can cause seniors to shy away from addressing their oral health resulting in an extreme decline in oral health and possible loss of teeth.
Another common dental issue among seniors is recession of the gum line. When this happens, tooth nerves become exposed leading to extra sensitivity and root damage. If root damage is present, it might lead to tooth loss if not treated soon. Other issues that may arise with oral health for the elderly is the care and maintenance of dentures. If dentures are used, proper maintenance and cleaning can prevent any damage to remaining teeth and/or gum issues. Another common issue with aging and dental health is the occurrence of dry mouth. Dry mouth is not an issue of aging but most commonly an issue associated with the side effects due to certain medications. Dry mouth can lead to the increased growth of bad bacteria. Dry mouth can also be due to the lack of fluid intake. As you age, make sure you consume enough liquids, particularly water, to combat dry mouth.
For elderly suffering from mobility issues or those who need extra assistance, dental care may fall low on the list of daily care needs. However, neglect of oral health in these individuals can result in more severe consequences as they might not have the resources to visit a dental professional who may be able to assist in correcting the problem.
So, what can we do to increase oral health in the elderly? Make sure to practice regular dental habits, such as brushing and flossing, at least twice a day will help to reduce the risk of infection and tooth decay. Visit your dental professional regularly, as recommended by your doctor. Discuss with him or her how you can prevent tooth loss and plan for your future dental health.