Just lately we’ve been addressing topics related to dental care and overall health care. One of our more recent blogs was about pregnancy, so this month we’d like to look at the opposite end of the spectrum, addressing dental care for seniors. We’ll look at specific types of issues that might impact seniors when it comes to managing both their dental care and their health. If you’re an older adult or care for someone who is, read on!
With access to fluoridated water, regular dental care and a good health care system, for many Canadians there really is no reason why their teeth can’t last a lifetime. A little effort in terms of regular brushing, flossing and rinsing – and visiting a Dentist and/or a Hygienist – is often all you need to ensure your teeth are still around and intact at 70, 80 and even 90+! That said however there do tend to be some problems that creep up as our age does too. These can include: dry mouth, gum disease, mouth cancers and, believe it or not, becoming more prone to cavities. Here’s why:
- As we age, dry mouth can occur as a result of various medications that tend to be prescribed more often to older adults including those for heart, high cholesterol, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and sometimes even those that treat anxiety or depression.
- Dry mouth can actually make you more prone to cavities because you are missing the saliva that helps to naturally rinse / rid your mouth of cavity causing bacteria.
- For many, dry mouth might also cause unpleasant side effects like impacting your taste buds and interfering with your enjoyment of food. This may in turn lead to a psychological state of “I’m not eating as much so I don’t need to brush…”
- Gum disease can occur when there is a build up of the bacteria in plaque. It can build up slowly and insidiously if you do not frequent the dentist office frequently. Often, the impact is felt more in a senior if there has also been a lifetime of poor dental hygiene.
- Similarly, mouth cancers are diagnosed at an average age of 62 – again possibly in part due to a lifetime of poor choices (such as smoking) and/or a lack of good oral health care.
- Unfortunately, another reality of seniors experiencing poor dental health has to do with access to dental coverage. For some, when employment stops, so too do things like dental benefits. Make sure you have a conversation with your Dentist about any changes to your health or your dental coverage. Dentists want to work together with you to help prevent future issues and many will offer payment plans or you might qualify for a referral to a community based support program that supplements the cost of dental care.
- In short – becoming a senior is not a reason to spend your “golden years” experiencing dental decay. As when you were younger, prevention is still the primary method for fending off issues like cavities that could then turn into root canals, or worse! If you are someone caring for a senior, spend time encouraging tooth brushing or provide assistance with the task if necessary. If the person needs help, standing behind them and guiding their hands as you see their reflection in the mirror allows you to more accurately assist them. If all else fails, gently rubbing their gums and teeth with a clean cloth might be the best you can do for them while keeping them comfortable. Even this is still better than doing nothing at all.
Regular visits with a Dentist or Hygienist are also still crucial, if any problems are developing they can be caught, and treated, early. If you, or someone you love is a senior and you’re worried about dental decay, contact our office today to book an appointment. We’re your family friendly Dentist in Brampton and for us – family includes everyone from babies to boomers and everything in between. Oh yes and, as always, “don’t forget to be a BFF with your mouth and Brush that SMILE!”