Oral health concerns are just one of the factors we face as we get older, but losing our teeth doesn’t have to be. While many believe that tooth loss is a normal aspect of aging, regular visits to the dentist can prevent this. With these visits and consistent oral hygiene practice, we can keep our smiles whole our entire lives. Regardless of your current age, it’s important to keep your teeth healthy and smile looking great. Neglecting them puts us at risk for more than just poor oral health; it can affect many areas of our lives. It’s even possible for dental concerns to become life-threatening if they’re not tended to.
Oral Health Risks Associated With Aging
Studies reveal that oral health problems become increasingly common as we age. Rather than being due to natural aging, it appears that most of the problems are the result of the inability to receive proper care. While physical concerns impacting our ability to perform proper hygiene play a role, poor access to dental care is more significant. This lack of professional care is due to a number of factors and is particularly notable in those over 65 years of age. Some elements involved in creating this scenario are as follows:
- Environmental factors
- Economic disadvantage
- Reduced access to dental insurance
- Growing health concerns
- Genetic factors
- Weakening enamel
- Poor blood flow in gingival tissue due to dilated vessels
- Difficulty brushing as a result of reduced physical ability
These are all major contributors to the oral health crisis being seen in seniors. The lack of insurance means regular visits are costly. They’re often outside the reach of those who are on services such as Medicaid and social security. Physical concerns make it difficult for these patients to perform the necessary oral hygiene routine to keep their teeth healthy. These factors combine to make the following oral health concerns prominent in senior citizens:
- Gum Recession: It’s not uncommon for our gums to recede as we age. Natural aging does play a role. This natural recession exposes the more vulnerable dental roots located beneath the gum line. Exposure to bacteria, acid, and plaque can quickly erode these surfaces.
- Tooth Decay: Our gums aren’t the only thing that experiences the wear and tear of time. Our dental enamel is the strongest material in the body, but even it weakens over time. As the enamel thins from everyday use, the risk of cavities increases.
- Endodontic Tooth Pain: Our teeth also become more sensitive to temperatures, acids, and sugars over time. We also become more susceptible to root calcification, pulp infection, and necrosis of the teeth.
- Dry Mouth: One contributing factor to failing oral health in seniors is medication. Medications prescribed for other concerns can cause dry mouth. Saliva has an important part to play in protecting our teeth.
Consistent Dental Care Is Essential To Oral Health
There is no silver bullet against these health concerns as we age. However, consistent oral health visits are an important part of keeping our teeth healthy. These visits, combined with a consistent oral hygiene regimen and a healthy diet, can keep our smile looking great for years.