Dental Care Concerns for Seniors

older couple with no tooth decayLike every other part of our bodies, our mouths change as we age. As the carefree days of youth fade you may be faced with new challenges when it comes to your oral health, or you may start to pay for bad habits from your younger days. And even if you’ve taken good care of your teeth & treated problems as they arise, some old solutions may age as well and need to be repaired or replaced.

Darker or Yellower Teeth

Perhaps the most notable change as we age is the color of our teeth. Over time, the hard outer layer of your teeth called enamel, gets thinner. Because enamel is semi-transparent, this makes it so the dentin underneath shows through, which makes teeth appear duller and yellow. A lifetime of teeth staining habits, such as smoking tobacco or drinking red wine, coffee or tea can also eventually lead to discolored teeth. A dentist may be able to help whiten your teeth with a professional teeth whitening treatment. Discuss your goals for brightening your teeth with your dentist so that we can recommend the best option based on your overall oral health.

Worn Out or Leaky Fillings

While fillings are one of the most common procedures that dentists perform and patients receive, fillings don’t last forever. Over time tooth fillings can get worn down and no longer be properly seated on your tooth. This can lead to tooth decay as bacteria and other debris get in between the filling and your tooth. One of the first signs of a filling that’s gone bad is tooth sensitivity to hot or cold. If you experience any new or strange sensations with your fillings, tell the dentist so we can examine your fillings.

Dry Mouth

Chronic dry mouth is more common in seniors, especially those undergoing cancer treatments that use radiation. Hundreds of medications also have dry mouth as a side effect. Saliva naturally helps flush away food particles that can become food for tooth decay-causing bacteria and also helps reduce acids that can cause decay. If you mouth isn’t producing enough saliva, you are at a much higher risk for both tooth decay and bad breath. Don’t hesitate to talk to your dentist about your medications and your symptoms so you can find a solution before your dry mouth has a negative impact on your oral health.

Loose or Ill-Fitting Dentures

In most cases, dentures are an affordable and natural-looking solution to missing teeth. However, many denture wearers will notice that while they have a perfect fit when they first get their false teeth, over time the dentures can start to feel loose or uncomfortable. This is due to bone loss in the jaw under your dentures, which causes the ridge under your gums to change shape. Most of the time, re-lining dentures can fix this problem. However, sometimes dentures need to be replaced. A permanent solution to this problem would be dental implants, either to support dentures or to support individual crowns. Dental implants can prevent the bone loss that makes dentures fit poorly and restore your mouth to its natural appearance and function. If you are having trouble with your dentures, bring this up to your dentist as soon as possible. We don’t want you to live in discomfort!

Tooth Loss & Associated Problems

As dental care professionals, our ultimate goal is to ensure as many of our patients as possible keep all their teeth for a lifetime. We know that disease and accidents sometimes makes this impossible, but we want our senior patients to have beautiful and functional smiles even if they’ve lost teeth. The most common cause of tooth loss is gum disease or periodontitis, which weakens teeth, gums and the jawbone. Lack of teeth can affect your quality of life in many ways, including difficulty speaking clearly, trouble chewing and eating, and a reluctance to smile or show your teeth in social situations. All of these are problems that can be alleviated with the appropriate preventive and restorative care. If your missing teeth are affecting your quality of life, talk to the dentist about whether bridges, implants, or dentures can help.

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Fact # 24:

Christian Siriano, fashion designer & winner of the fourth season of Project Runway, was born in Columbia.