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Magnolia Manor Blog

Common Oral Health Issues and Treatments for Seniors

Posted by Magnolia Manor on
September 27, 2019

senior living oral health georgia

Aging can take a toll on our bodies in several ways, including our mouth and teeth. So the very fact that seniors are older puts them at greater risk for tooth and gum disease. The good news is that more seniors than ever before are retaining their natural teeth. But that makes it all the more important to maintain good oral hygiene. Oral health is just as important for those who wear dentures.

senior living magnolia manor georgiaWhy are seniors prone to oral health problems?
Teeth suffer wear and tear over the years, from chewing thousands of meals and (for many people) clenching or grinding. In older adults, medical conditions such as diabetes, high blood pressure, Parkinson’s, and Alzheimer’s significantly increase risk of tooth and gum problems, as can a long list of commonly-prescribed medications.

Maintaining oral health can be harder for some seniors, too. Physical limitations such as arthritis can make brushing and flossing difficult or impossible. With the onset of dementia, remembering to brush and visit the dentist regularly can become a concern. Diminished eyesight can make it more difficult to notice tooth or gum problems. Hearing loss may cause patients to miss or misunderstand explanations or instructions from their dentist.

Whether you are a senior yourself, or you’re a caregiver, it is important to recognize common oral health issues that affect older adults and learn how to combat them. Here’s what you need to know.

senior living magnolia manor georgiaTooth decay
It’s not just for kids any more. According to the American Dental Association, about half of seniors over 75 have at least one untreated cavity. One reason for this problem reappearing in older adults is that, over time, restorations such as fillings and crowns can invite secondary cavities. Decreased saliva is also a contributing factor. Untreated cavities can ultimately lead to tooth loss.

What can you do?
Use an electric toothbrush that rotates or oscillates
Use high-fluoride toothpaste and a topical fluoride rinse
Cut back on sweetened foods and drinks
Get your teeth cleaned more frequently
Ask your dentist about an application of fluoride varnish
If gripping is difficult, choose an electric toothbrush with a wide handle, and use a floss holder instead of string floss

Gum disease
The bacteria in plaque and tartar and smoking can lead to gingivitis, inflammation that occurs where the teeth and gums meet. The area can become infected, damaging the gum tissue and underlying bone. Gum disease can sneak up on you because it’s painless until it becomes a problem, but it is preventable.

What can you do?
Brush and floss every day
Get regular dental check-ups

senior living magnolia manor georgiaReceding gums
Smoking, poor dental hygiene, and grinding your teeth can cause gums to recede, but researchers are increasingly blaming genetics for this problem. Exposed areas are more vulnerable to decay, and gum disease is more likely.

What can you do?
Dental deep cleaning or scaling, followed by good oral hygiene practices
If needed, gum grafting is a surgical repair option

Dry mouth
Seniors produce less saliva, but medications are a major cause of dry mouth. In turn, dry mouth can cause cavities by allowing sugars and acids to accumulate. It can also cause swollen tongue and chapped lips. Almost a third of seniors 65 or older suffer from dry mouth.

senior living magnolia manor georgiaWhat can you do?
Drink water instead of sweetened drinks (and skip sugary foods, too)
Chew gum or lozenges to stimulate saliva production
Use an oral rinse
Tell your dentist about all medications you take

It is also important to note that the risk of oral cancer increases with age. Dental visits now include more extensive checks for early signs of cancer.

Healthy smiles at Magnolia Manor.
If you or your elder loved one are experiencing difficulty with tasks such as brushing and flossing, or are in need of memory care, Magnolia Manor can help. We provide a full range of services for seniors, tailored to meet individual needs, in loving family-like settings. Discussing your options can help you make good decisions about the future and give you blessed peace of mind that you are making the right choices. Please don’t hesitate to contact us at 1-855-540-LIFE (5433).

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Topics: FAQs, Senior Safety