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Article

5 Common Dental Problems Older Adults Should KNow

By Dr. Anu Issac

Older adults are often guilty of paying less or no attention to their oral health. This can prove fatal to their overall health. Your oral health is connected to your overall health in more ways than you can imagine. Take a look at these 5 dental problems which are common in old age:   1.     Problematic Wisdom Teeth Older adults can and should consider wisdom teeth extractions if they are problematic. Pain and/or discomfort are the least negative side effects. Such incorrectly erupted wisdom tooth or teeth can also trigger an infection in the gums which can further spread to nearby healthy teeth. Besides, the pressure these teeth put on the rest of the mouth can lead to misaligned teeth. Also, tooth extraction can sometimes lead to dry socket. Dry sockets although painful, are easily treatable if reported to your dentist at the earliest.   2.     Gum Diseases Periodontal disease or gum diseases are common across all age groups. However, these dental issues can have more serious effects in older adults. For instance, the ability to chew and swallow can be impaired which leads to inadequate nutrition. This further leads to additional oral and overall health issues. Gingivitis is inflammation in gums due to bacteria and can develop into periodontitis – a severe gum infection which damages gum tissue and even the bone supporting the teeth.   Gum diseases if neglected, can also lead to gum recession in which the gums gradually shrink away from the teeth. Since this exposes the root of the teeth, they become sensitive. Deep cleaning, scaling or surgical procedures such as gum grafts in severe cases are some of the treatment options.   Poor oral hygiene and smoking are some of the causes of gum diseases. Proper dental care and regular dental checkups can help you prevent gum diseases and other related dental problems.   3.     Tooth Decay Medical conditions such as arthritis are common in old age. Painful hand and finger joints can make brushing and flossing difficult. Teeth and gums if not cleaned properly promote the buildup of plaque and tartar. This increases the risk of tooth decay which can result in painful cavities, infection and even tooth loss in severe conditions. If you too find it difficult to brush due to painful hand joints, consider using an electric toothbrush. Eat healthy and brush your teeth twice a day with toothpaste which contains fluoride. If you experience tooth decay frequently, ask your dentist about fillings, crowns and fluoride rinse.   4.     Dry Mouth This oral problem results from having insufficient saliva. It can cause difficulty in chewing, eating, swallowing and sometimes even talking. Saliva also acts as a defensive barrier against harmful bacteria. Hence, a dry mouth can increase your risk of tooth decay and oral problems. Several medications used for treatment of high blood pressure, anxiety, pain, depression and high cholesterol can cause dry mouth. If you are on any of these medications, talk to your dentist about their side effects on your oral health so you can take relevant preventive measures.     5.     Oral Cancer Older adults are more at risk of oral cancer. If you have any persistent sores, ulcers or color changes in the tissue in or around your mouth, consult your doctor immediately. Generally no pain is experienced in the early stages of oral cancer and early detection can save lives. Regular dental checkups are important as these can help identify early signs of oral cancer such as open sores, changes in lips, reddish or white patches etc.   Regular dental checkups become all the more important in old age as they can help identify some early signs of overall health issues also. Consult your dentist and learn about how you can maintain a healthy smile in your golden years as well.   Dr. Anu Isaac, DMD, runs a successful dental practice in Salem, MA. As the founder of Coral Dental Care, she is dedicated to creating healthy, beautiful smiles for her patients and also to educating dental and non-dental community with her engaging articles on all things related to oral health, recent dental innovations, and latest treatment modalities.

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