7 Oral Health Concerns for Those Over 50

Posted on June 29, 2017

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smiling senior couple

When they say “age is all in your head,” they’re probably right. But then, your teeth ARE in your head — so you likely can’t escape having to pay a little more attention to them after 50. Although some oral health concerns are fairly common at that age, if you adopt a proactive mindset and educate yourself, these concerns do not have to be common for you. Anticipating and recognizing changes in your mouth can help you be on top of your health in this area — so let’s take a look at the main ones you have to watch out for so that you may “age gracefully” while maintaining your Oral Health.

 Dry Mouth: The most common oral health concern you’re likely to experience as you age is dry mouth. In the medical world, dry mouth goes by the name Xerostomia, and can be brought on by a number of contributing factors, including the over-consumption of drying beverages like coffee and alcohol, as well as the frequent consumption of salty foods. Another big offender is the medication we take over a lifetime to treat various illness. And the list isn’t a short one – there are at least 400 medications that can contribute to Xerostomia, including medications for high blood pressure and depression. Be sure to let us know if you are experiencing dry mouth so that we can evaluate it for you.

 Ill-fitting Dentures: First off, it’s important to note that the need for dentures is not a must as we age. Today, healthier living and better access to dental care have reduced the percentage of seniors wearing dentures to 27% from nearly 50% just a few decades ago. That said, should dentures be a part of your life, or that of a loved one, wearing properly fitting dentures is critical. Dentures that cause pain or shift in the mouth tend to alter a person’s eating habits, which can lead to nutrition deficits if healthy, but hard to chew, foods are avoided. Ill-fitting dentures can also cause thrush.

Physical Obstacles to Good Oral Care: As we age, we sometimes find ourselves having to contend with physical ailments that limit our desire to maintain good oral care. Arthritis, vision loss, or injuries are a few of the most common. To combat these concerns, using a floss pick to get between teeth can be helpful, and the regular use of oral rinses can assist in dislodging difficult to remove food debris while adding to the overall health of one’s mouth and gum tissue.  Oral irrigation appliances are also helpful with this concern.

Naturally Receding Gums: The old expression “long in the tooth” isn’t just a quaint idiom about how one accumulates wisdom with age – it also refers to how our teeth appear to “lengthen” as we age. In other words, it’s a fancy way of saying our gums are receding. While some degree of gum recession is indeed natural as we get up in years, this predisposes us to cavities along the root structure of the tooth where enamel doesn’t exist. So, as one ages, flossing, brushing, and rinses are more important than ever.

Gum Disease: Natural Gum recession is one thing, and a part of “growing up,” if you will. Gum disease, however, is preventable. Each of the above items in this list can contribute to gum disease, and good oral care can prevent it. Failing to do so can lead to a need for dentures at its most extreme, and pain and swollen gums at its least. Both of these can be averted with good oral care!

Tooth Loss: If a tooth is lost due to trauma or decay, and not replaced with an implant or other prosthetic, it can have serious complications for the health of the jawbone. Teeth can shift out of place and fall out, and bone tissue can be resorbed back into the body. This can be very debilitating, affecting your ability to chew and eat.

Loss of Insurance Coverage: Retirees without dental coverage can sometimes cover the expenses of dental care on their own; sometimes they cannot. But a lack of funds to take care of one’s teeth can be devastating to our Oral health, and our overall health. So we need to plan for two things: a care routine that allows us to take care of our teeth as much as humanly possible and some sort of financial backup plan for when problems do arise.

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