Understanding Common Senior Oral Health Problems

geriatric dentist in Milwaukie

As a geriatric dentist in Milwaukie, our team at Prime Dental strive to help patients better understand how their oral health changes with age. As with most parts of the body, your teeth and gums change over the years. However, gum disease and tooth loss don’t need to become part of your future. You can enjoy a healthy, great-looking smile throughout your golden years if you take the time and make an effort to practice quality oral hygiene daily.

Growing older does mean experiencing more oral health problems. Fortunately, identifying those problems early on can help prevent permanent damage due to tooth decay and gum disease. Your geriatric dentist in Milwaukie at Prime Dental will continue to monitor your oral health for any signs of problems during routine exams and cleanings, but it’s also important that you monitor your oral health at home, as well.

Let’s look at some of the most common age-related oral health issues senior patients face and a few tips on treating and avoiding them.

Senior Oral Health Problems

Dry Mouth

Dry mouth is by far the most common oral health issue seniors experience is dry mouth. The condition occurs whenever saliva levels in the mouth decrease below normal. Saliva acts as the body’s natural defense mechanism against harmful oral bacteria that grow in the mouth. Saliva works to neutralize the corrosive compounds produced by plaque that contribute to tooth decay development. It also helps to flush food particles that linger in the mouth after eating away from the surface of our teeth and gums.

When the mouth fails to produce enough saliva, food particles and plaque remain in the mouth, where they contribute to the development of cavities and gum disease. Think of dry mouth as your oral health transformed into a desert where everything becomes brittle and dry.

Various issues can contribute to the development of dry mouth, including some commonly prescribed medications. According to the American Pharmacists Association, over 500 different commonly prescribed medications can cause dry mouth as a side effect. These medications treat everything from anxiety and depression to stroke risk and heart disease.

If you experience dry mouth frequently, you need to talk with Dr. Cardwell about the medications you take during your next visit to see our geriatric dentist in Milwaukie. Dr. Cardwell can help you identify the medications that contribute to dry mouth. If your dry mouth remains consistent, you may need to talk to your doctor about switching to a medication that will continue to treat your underlying issue without contributing to dry mouth.

If the medications you take aren’t the cause of your dry mouth, you can take steps to stimulate saliva production, such as chewing sugar-free gum and using an artificial saliva substitute.

Bad Breath

Often, patients who experience persistent dry mouth will also develop chronic cases of bad breath. While poor oral hygiene ranks as the most common cause of bad breath, the condition can also result from bacterial issues in the mouth or other underlying health concerns.

Diabetes and certain types of respiratory issues can contribute to the development of bad breath, along with dry mouth.

Bacteria in the mouth begin to break down and decay when allowed to remain stagnant. This happens incredibly quickly when saliva levels become low and the mouth dry. When bacteria decay, it begins to smell, and bad breath develops.

Preventing bad breath means staying dedicated to practicing quality oral hygiene daily. Brushing and flossing daily and scheduling regular exams and cleanings with our geriatric dentist in Milwaukie can prevent the bacterial buildup most responsible for bad breath.

Gum Disease

Gum disease ranks as the world’s most prevalent untreated infection. Over half of all adults in the U.S. deal with severe gum disease, a condition known as periodontitis. The disease only becomes more prevalent as people age. A stunning 75 percent of seniors 65 and older deal with either moderate or severe gum disease.

The prevalence of gum disease among those over the age of 65 dramatically contributes to the high rate of tooth loss experienced by seniors. Though many people believe tooth loss is an inevitable part of growing older, it’s more often a matter of allowing untreated gum disease to devastate your oral health.

While your gums become more susceptible to the effects of bacteria the older you become, tooth loss is far from inevitable. Regular dental care is vital when it comes to protecting your oral health. Unfortunately, due to Medicare practices and a diminishing view of the importance of oral health, many seniors receive less dental care, not more.

Quality gum health is possible the older you get if regular preventative dental care remains part of your routine. Brushing and flossing daily and regular visits to Prime Dental must remain part of your routine if you hope to avoid oral problems that lead to permanent tooth loss.