According to the Federal Interagency Forum on Aging-Related Statistics, by the year 2030 the population over 65 years of age will double as compared to the year 2000. This means approximately 72 million American (20% of the total US population) will be over the age of 65. Older adults are one of the fastest growing demographics in the nation and present unique dental health needs. It is important to find a dentist who understands and can cater to aging adults.
Common Dental Issues for Older Adults
Aging not only affects your overall health, but it has an impact on your oral health as well. Many older adults suffer from dry mouth, may find the number of cavities on the rise, or have periodontal or gum disease.
Xerostomia (dry mouth) is a common complaint in older adults. It isn’t a disease or a normal part of aging, but it is a symptom. Dry mouth can be caused by many medications. Over 500 medications may cause dry mouth. Since most aging adults are on one or more prescription drugs, it is not surprising they may suffer from a dry mouth. Dry mouth can contribute to the increase of cavities since saliva helps clear and protect your mouth.
If you find you have a dry mouth there are some simple things you can do to find relief.
- Over the counter sprays or mouthwash may help.
- Talk to your doctor about your medications.
- Drink more water. Don’t wait until you are thirsty to get a drink. Carry a water bottle and sip water throughout the day.
- Sugar free lozenges or gum help to stimulate saliva production.
- Use a humidifier to help keep moisture in the air.
- Avoid coffee, alcohol, soft drinks, and acidic fruit juices which irritate dry mouths.
- Talk to your dentists about the application of a fluoride gel or varnish to protect your teeth.
Gum disease, or periodontal disease, is a very common condition in older adults. It is caused by plaque which has bacteria that irritates your gums. Your gums may be red, swollen, and bleed. Gum disease is so common because it is a painless condition until it reaches the advanced stages. If left untreated it can cause deep pockets which collect food and plaque. Gum disease can also destroy your gums, ligaments and bone which support the teeth leading to tooth loss. Regular dental visits will prevent and treat gum disease protecting your oral health.
According to the American Cancer Society, there are over 35,000 new cases of oral cancers each year. Of that number the average age is 62. Oral cancer screening is an important part of keeping up with your oral health. Keeping up with your regular dental checkups is important because your doctor can spot and track any changes in your gums, lips, tongue, cheeks, and soft tissues of your mouth and throat. If detected and treated in the early stages, oral cancer has a very high survival rate.
As you age it is important to keep up with your dental checkups. Your doctor is your partner in staying healthy. Call or contact Dr. Taylor today and set up your next oral exam. We’d be happy to schedule an appointment so you can talk to Dr. Taylor about aging and dental health.