As people grow older, they start getting worried about their health. They go for regular health check-ups, get careful about what they eat, take up some form of exercise, etc. But how many of the elderly consider going to the dentist regularly? According to the American Cancer Society, “there are about 35,000 cases of mouth, throat and tongue cancer diagnosed each year. The average age of most people diagnosed with these cancers is 62.” This just goes to show that dental care for the elderly is, as important, as any other kind of medical care.
Many of the elderly are unaware of the numerous dental problems they could face as they grow older. Some of them are:
People associate cavities with young children. If they have strong, healthy teeth as children and adults, they assume that their teeth will stay strong all their lives. But that is not true. As people age, the amount of nutrients that their body absorbs lessens, and this makes them prone to infections.
As you age, the space between the teeth becomes more. Food gets caught between the teeth and if this food isn’t cleaned out, it will attract bacteria and this could cause gum infection. If not treated in time, it would cause a cavity and maybe even loss of teeth.
There are a couple of reasons that the elderly are prone to gum disease. One is that their bodies are weaker than that of younger people and their immunity is less. So, a small infection could cause a major problem. The other one is as explained above, is the debris left between the teeth, which could give rise to infections affecting the gum and weakening it.
This is also associated with young children, but can be an elderly dental ailment as well. It is caused by lack of Vitamin C, phosphate and calcium and could result in loss of teeth. The elderly should increase their intake of these nutrients as they age to ensure that their bones and teeth stay strong.
Mouth ulcers can be painful and you could have difficulty eating anything sour or spicy. Mouth ulcers are a sign of something wrong with your health, and your dentist could be able to detect what the underlying cause is, and advice you on what kind of medical treatment to take.
Oral cancer is another quiet but dangerous problem if proper dental care is not taken regularly. Mouth cancer could affect the gums, the lips, the tongue or the sides of the mouth. If you go to a dentist regularly, many types of cancer can be detected early and treatment can be started immediately, thereby decreasing the chance of it getting worse.
Some symptoms of oral cancer could be:
- Sore patches in the inner lining of your mouth, gums or tongue
- Patchy redness on the side of your mouth
- Sores on your lips
Many of the symptoms are invisible and do not cause any pain in the early stages. If you visit a dentist regularly, these problems can be detected early and the right treatment can be given.
Some tips on dental care for the elderly
- See a dentist regularly
- Brush your teeth twice a day and if possible after every meal, and floss well
- Use lip balms to avoid chapped lips
- Drink lots of water as older people get dehydrated faster and the mouth produces less saliva, leading to sores
- Take necessary supplements that your body needs to keep your teeth and gums healthy