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Common Oral Health Conditions in the Elderly

Health concerns grow as a person ages. In this St. Barnabas blog, we’re taking a look at one concern in particular: oral health.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), nearly one-third of adults 65 years and older have untreated dental caries—permanently damaged areas in the teeth that develop into tiny holes.

In a previous blog post, we covered the basics of periodontal disease; today we want to discuss some other common oral health conditions that many elderly people experience.

Gum disease

When tissues surrounding the teeth become infected because of a buildup of plaque, it can become a serious condition. The first stage of gum disease is gingivitis, and comes with the very recognizable symptoms of bleeding, red or swollen gums. Gum disease can be prevented and does not have to be a part of aging. Brushing, flossing and regular trips to the dentist can reduce the risk of developing this condition.

Dry mouth

This is a very common oral health condition in seniors and is usually caused by certain medical disorders or medications. Dry mouth, if left untreated, can cause damage to teeth over time. Dentists will likely recommend a variety of treatments to restore the moisture in a person’s mouth. For instance, sipping water throughout the day, avoiding mouth washes that contain alcohol and chewing sugar free gum to promote saliva production are all ways to combat dry mouth.

Sensitive teeth

Sometimes while enjoying a very hot or very cold beverage, a person will experience a quick shot of sharp pain followed by a tingling sensation in his or her teeth – the hallmarks of sensitive teeth. Sensitivity can be brought on by a number of reasons such as brushing too aggressively, worn tooth enamel or a cracked tooth. Sensitive teeth can be treated by avoiding acidic drinks and foods such as coffee, yogurts, citrus fruits and carbonated drinks, switching to a toothpaste that’s formulated for sensitive teeth, or swapping your hard-bristled toothbrush for a soft-bristled variety. If those don’t work, the dentist may be able to recommend alternative treatments.

These are just a few of the common oral health conditions that can plague the elderly. If you’d like to learn more, contact your dentist today.

Check back in the coming weeks to learn more about the importance of oral hygiene as we age.

Sources:

http://www.colgate.com/en/us/oc/oral-health/life-stages/oral-care-age-55-up/article/oral-health-for-seniors

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St. Barnabas Health System
5850 Meridian Road
Gibsonia, PA 15044

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