Numerous health concerns rear their heads as we advance in age. Many assume they’re just part of getting older when it comes to age-related oral health concerns. While some elements of our oral health definitely suffer as we get older, losing our teeth isn’t inevitable. Those who maintain regular oral health care visits and protect their health with consistent dental hygiene habits can keep a full smile their whole lives. Even in those who maintain perfect dental health, cosmetic treatments can keep that smile beautiful as well as complete.
The Facts Behind How Oral Health Changes As We Age
Ongoing research has consistently debunked the idea that our oral health will steadily get worse as we age. While it’s true that the wear and tear of time will have an impact, oral hygiene and regular dental visits can help. A lack of consistent and sufficient oral health care hurts our smiles more than any other factor. Numerous factors contribute to this lack of consistent care, including:
- Limited access to necessary dental insurance
- Economic disadvantages impacting nutrition and food choices
- Inability to reach dental appointments consistently due to distance or lack of transportation
These factors contribute to that one overarching factor, professional dental care. Many seniors are on government-provided health insurance programs that are notorious for their lack of dental coverage. Even when they have access to necessary dental insurance, mobility and transportation can be an issue. Health issues also contribute to declining oral health in elderly patients. Some of these factors include:
- Degrading physical ability to properly perform oral hygiene
- Advancing non-dental health concerns
- Natural dilation of blood vessels in the gums
- Demineralization of enamel over time
- Genetic factors
Some of these issues are the result of wear and tear, while others are merely factors of advancing age. Each of them contributes to the difficulty of maintaining oral health in older patients. The majority of these concerns remain untreated in elderly patients due to the factors above. The culmination of these factors tends to make the following conditions common in these patients:
- Gum Recession: The dilation of blood vessels in the gums makes a receding gum line common in older patients.
- Tooth Decay: As the tooth’s enamel weakens with age, tooth decay becomes more prominent.
- Dry Mouth: Dry mouth sometimes happens with older patients due to medications prescribed for other issues.
- Thrush: This is a rare type of oral yeast infection that is common in very young and elderly patients. It occurs more frequently in those suffering from dry mouth.
These factors are best controlled through consistent oral hygiene and regular visits to the dentist. They can also get benefits from certain forms of preventative care. Examples include dental sealants and fluoride treatments. Sealants protect the teeth under a thin decay-resistant layer. Fluoride can stimulate the remineralization of enamel, strengthening it.
Ensuring Greater Senior Access Is Key To Lasting Oral Health
The concerns listed above are persistent but avoidable. There are systems in place to help elderly patients get transportation to their medical appointments. Many dental offices offer special financing options or alternative treatments that are covered by certain types of government insurance. Speak to your dental provider to see what options are available for you.