With the advancements in dentistry, people are increasingly keeping a full set of natural teeth as they age. Thirty years ago, about half of people over the age of 65 had no remaining teeth, and that number has been cut nearly in half. This welcomed trend makes ongoing oral health care even more essential for the elderly population.
Oral Health Problems Commonly Seen in Old Age
Common diseases can range from many different parts of the mouth. Gum disease is caused by plaque, a sticky film of bacteria that forms when sugars and starches are left on the teeth. Severity ranges from a simple gum inflammation (gingivitis) to the loss of teeth. Another common problem is root decay, an exposure problem. Gum tissues recede from the tooth, exposing the root, and the root then becomes exposed to acids caused by the bacteria living in plaque.
Denture-induced stomatitis (denture sore mouth) is the mild inflammation of tissue beneath a denture. It is usually a harmless condition, but the infection may be a more serious threat to individuals with a compromised immune system. Temporomandibular Joint Dysfunction (TMJ), as an Edmonton orthodontic professional tells us, is the dysfunction of the muscles that move the jaw and the joints which connect the lower jaw to the skull. The most common complaint among the elderly is clicking or popping sounds when opening and closing their mouth.
Keeping the Jaw and Teeth Healthy
There are steps that individuals and their caregivers can take to help prevent or alleviate some of the problems outlined above. Sometimes the most basic advice is the best to follow. Brush after every meal and floss every day to keep major diseases from developing or spreading. Dentists and Mar orthodontics specialists can prescribe special toothpastes, gels, and rinses for their patients who are at high-risk for dental disease. These products often contain high fluoride or anti-bacterial agents. Regular visits to the dentist for teeth cleaning or denture refitting is also essential to a healthy mouth. Missing teeth or ill-fitting dentures can lead to aspiration of food, a cause of pneumonia. Traditional dentures rest on the gums, though alternatively, a special denture can be snapped on to implants attached to the jaw bone. This type of denture fits more snugly, resulting in the ability to eat a wider array of food and, ultimately, better nutrition.
Keep on top of other health conditions. In the elderly, there is believed to be a strong correlation between TMJ and other health conditions. In consultation with a physician, and with proper medical treatment, TMJ can often be treated without dental services. With awareness and diligence on the part of patients, caregivers, and healthcare professionals, oral health can be maintained well into old age.