As per US census the number of adults aged 65 years and above is expected to reach 24% of the total US population by the year 2060. Aging and health in general is an interesting subject however today we will be delving deeper into the topic of aging and dental health in particular.
Some facts and figures on aged people and dental health
As per the CDC some facts about the oral health of the old adults aged 65 and above are –
- Nearly 96% of older adults aged 65 and above have had a cavity.
- Almost 1 in 5 has untreated tooth decay.
- 68% of people above 65 years of age suffer from gum diseases.
- And 1 out of 5 people have lost all their teeth. Loss of teeth generally increases with age but varies by ethnicity.
These are quite startling figures. Given this oral health in aged people takes an importance of its own. This is a subject which should be of concern not just to people getting older but also those who have older people in their family.
How aging impacts oral health
As one grows older the cells in our body take longer time to renew themselves. Tissues become thin and lose their elasticity. Bones become weak and our general immunity goes down leading to more infections and slower rate of recovery from illnesses. Obviously all these factors also impact the oral health of the person. Our teeth are strong however they are not indestructible. So many years of usage, wear and tear weakens them. Gums also naturally recede with age.
People with chronic diseases like diabetes, heart diseases, COPD are more likely to get gum diseases. Bruxism or grinding of teeth is seen commonly with patients suffering from dementia.
While you cannot avert all the side effects of aging you can always take care of yourself if you are aware of what problems you are more likely to encounter and what do you need to do to prevent or delay them.
Common oral health problems in the older people
Common dental problems that people of age 65 and above generally encounter are as follows-
- Dry mouth – Saliva plays an important role in maintaining the proper environment in the mouth. Less production of saliva due to age, medicines or certain health conditions like diabetes, stroke etc can lead to less production of saliva causing dry mouth which can lead to difficulties like mouth sores, difficulty in chewing and swallowing, gum diseases, tooth decay and even yeast infection in the mouth.
- Gum problems – Because gums recede with age this can lead to easy build up of bacteria causing tooth decay.
- Cavities – These are more common in older adults because of receding gums and dry mouth.
- Oral Cancer – The median age of diagnosis of oral cancer is around 62 years. Smoking and consumption of tobacco are most common causes of oral cancer.
How to take care of your teeth
- Brush your teeth twice a day with a toothbrush that has soft bristles. If you suffer from a debilitating disease then start using an electric toothbrush with rotating or oscillating bristles for more effective cleaning of the teeth.
- Use fluoride toothpaste and mouthwash.
- Floss daily at least once. Inter dental cleaner brushes come handy for this.
- If you wear dentures (partial or complete) make sure you remove them every night and clean them properly. Cleaning of dentures must be done daily.
- Drink fluoridated water. Generally tap water is fluoridated.
- Avoid alcohol and tobacco products completely.
- Eat healthy and well balanced diet.
- Visit your dentist regularly. Even if you have no natural teeth you must visit the dentist regularly. This is a big problem with the elderly. About half of the seniors do not visit the dentist regularly. Many of them do this because of heavy dental costs. Investing in the right dental insurance at the right time will help you maintain good oral health when you get older. Read our blogs on dental insurance to know more.
If the elderly is in the care of a caregiver then the above mentioned measures must be carried out by them judiciously.
Will I lose my teeth as I get older?
Getting older is not synonymous with losing teeth. Although 5% of older adults above the age of 65 are edentulous (without any natural teeth), more and more older people are now retaining their natural teeth for longer ages because of proper care taken earlier.
Tooth loss has varied impact on health of the elderly. Older adults who have lost all or most of their teeth often are not able to eat fresh fruits and vegetables which are key elements of any healthy diet. They tend to eat a lot of soft foods that are easy to chew. This results in a decline in nutrition thereby impacting the health and immunity of the aged person. Tooth loss also means pain and difficulty speaking. Losing one’s teeth often leads to embarrassment and a loss of self-esteem leading to loneliness and isolation. Hence we must take care and follow all the self care instructions given above to ensure we have healthy set of teeth till the end of this life.
Aging is not pretty but it is an inevitable part of life. With proper care we can keep our mouth looking and feeling younger for years to come.
If you have more queries you can always call Ensure Dental Care (the family dentist near you) on 940-274-3229 for more information or to schedule an appointment. Ensure Dental Care is the one of the best family dental clinics at Saginaw Texas. We accept all major insurance providers. We also have in house payment plan. We have a very experienced team of dental practitioners and we look forward to serving you the best of our abilities.
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