Common Dental Concerns for Elderly Patients

As sturdy as your teeth may be, as you grow older they become more prone to certain problems that come with age. Your teeth become a little weaker and more susceptible to the effects of decay. This doesn't mean that your teeth will necessarily be worse for wear, but knowing what you might face can help you take better care of your teeth now to prevent negative effects.

Reduced Saliva Production

As you get older the amount of saliva you produce decreases, and this can happen for a few reasons. Reduced production is simply a natural part of age, but it can also come as a result of different medications. Medication for certain cancer treatments, depression, anxiety, high cholesterol, or blood pressure and various diseases can cause dry mouth as a side effect.

Saliva serves multiple benefits: it constantly washes your teeth and prevents bacteria from settling, so if you lack that saliva, it will make your teeth much more susceptible to decay and cavities.

Ask your doctor about any medications you're currently on that may contribute to dry mouth, and also keep your dentist informed about the medications you're prescribed.

Root Decay

Taking care of your gums is especially important as you age; a common issue in aging patients is receding gums, which exposes the roots beneath. This isn't a problem in itself, but it does mean that your roots are more vulnerable to decay. Because of this, it's much more important that you maintain a routine brushing and flossing schedule. You can also add mouthwash to the mix, or at least rinse your mouth with water a few times a day to remove trapped bits of food.

Loss of Enamel

Enamel is a protective coating on the outside of your teeth, but it doesn't regenerate, so as you age it will start to deteriorate. This leaves the dentin underneath exposed, and it can result in some discoloration and increased sensitivity.

To help deal with this, look for toothpaste that helps sensitive teeth, and make sure you're using a soft-bristle brush. Scrubbing too hard only scrubs away enamel; in order to clean your teeth, you only need to gently brush the surfaces of your teeth to remove food particles and bacteria. Consider looking for a toothbrush designed to better reach between your teeth and brush your gums as well.

Higher Risk of Periodontitis

Periodontitis, also called gum disease, commonly comes as a succession to gingivitis. Because of reduced enamel and receding gums, you may be more likely to experience this, especially if you don't keep a routine brushing schedule.

If you have gingivitis, be very gentle when brushing your teeth, but make sure to reach your gums when you brush. Also be aware of how your diet and certain activities can affect your gums' ability to heal. Smoking and drinking can negatively affect your dental health, as can diets that are high in sugar and low in whole foods. Ask your doctor about any supplements or medication you may be able to take for your immune system or to correct any vitamin deficiencies, which can also contribute to a progression to gum disease.