Common Oral Health Issues in Seniors

Common Oral Health Issues in Seniors

As family dentists, David Epstein, DDS, and Nikita Vakil, DMD, of The Woodlands Dental Group care for every family member, and that includes little ones and seniors alike. Each age group has specific oral and dental concerns, and we’re equipped to address all of your family’s dental needs.

In this blog, Dr. Epstein and Dr. Vakil discuss some of the common oral health issues that seniors experience and how these issues can be treated. 

Tooth decay

Tooth decay can strike at any age, but untreated tooth decay is more prevalent in older adults. Researchers estimate that 96% of adults over age 65 have had at least one cavity, and 20% of them have untreated decay. Untreated tooth decay can lead to complications, such as the need for an extraction or a root canal.

Regular dental exams for seniors give us an opportunity to spot the earliest signs of tooth decay. Fillings can halt the spread of decay and eliminate the risks of untreated decay.

Gum disease

Like tooth decay, gum disease isn’t limited to seniors, but it is a common issue for this demographic. It’s estimated that 68% of adults over age 65 have gum disease. Gum disease is a leading cause of tooth loss. If you have gum disease, we can design a treatment plan to get rid of it and help keep you free from it in the future.

Tooth loss

Due to untreated decay and gum disease, tooth loss is common in older adults. Approximately 1 out of every 5 adults over age 65 has lost all of their teeth. Missing teeth can lead to nutritional deficiencies, difficulty eating, unclear speech, and low self-esteem. Gum disease treatment can help prevent tooth loss, but if tooth loss is inevitable, dental implants or bridges can restore the function of your mouth.

Oral cancer

Oral cancer, which includes both oral and pharyngeal cancer, is most often diagnosed in older individuals. The median age for receiving an oral cancer diagnosis is 62. Signs of oral cancer include:

During each dental exam, we always inspect the oral cavity for any suspicious changes, but if you notice sudden changes, don’t wait until your next appointment. Make an appointment right away. Detecting and treating oral cancer is always easier when spotted during the early stages.

Complications from underlying conditions

Seniors with underlying medical conditions can experience complications that affect their oral health. For instance, seniors with diabetes are more likely to struggle with gum disease. Additionally, many medications that seniors take have dry mouth listed as a side effect. Dry mouth can increase your risk of developing tooth decay, because there is less saliva to wash away the decay-causing bacteria. 

Arthritis can also impact your oral health, especially if it affects your ability to floss. If arthritis in your hands makes it hard to floss, consider switching from regular floss to pre-threaded flossers.

While it’s impossible to prevent all dental issues, routine care can ensure that treatment is received as soon as possible. To schedule a dental exam and cleaning, book an appointment over the phone with The Woodlands Dental Group today.

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