It is no secret that as you age, your general health is affected. In addition to an increased health risk, your dental health also changes as you grow older. From the nerves, tissue, and even bones: all parts of your body are affected, including your teeth and gums.
How does age affect oral health?
As you age, small changes occur over time throughout your entire body. More specifically, cells regenerate at a slower rate, tissues throughout your body are less elastic and thinner, your bones weaken and become less dense, and your immune system weakens meaning infection can occur easier and the healing process is longer. There are several conditions that worsen as you age including the below oral health problems.
Saliva is responsible for protecting the teeth and gums as well as preventing tooth decay. As you age, your body produces less and less saliva resulting in a dry mouth. This can be due to age, medications, or even certain medical conditions. Without an adequate amount of saliva you are left to deal with:
- mouth sores
- gum disease
- tooth decay
- difficulty tasting, chewing, and/or swallowing
Medications used to treat conditions such as hypertension, high cholesterol, pain, cancer treatment side effects, and depression have been linked to a reduction in how much saliva is produced. In addition, medical conditions such as stroke and diabetes have been linked to dry mouth in older adults as well.
One of the most common gum-related issues in older adults is receding gums. Receding gums occurs when the gum tissue actually pulls away from the tooth, leaving the root of the tooth exposed. This leaves the root of the tooth susceptible to a buildup of bacteria, inflammation, and tooth decay. Brushing your teeth too hard over a long period of time and periodontal disease are the most common causes of receding gums.
In addition to receding gums, gingivitis is common among older adults. Gingivitis is a form of gum disease, often an early sign. Periodontitis is classified as severe gum disease. Below are common factors that put older adults at risk for gum disease:
- inadequate brushing and flossing
- lack of dental care
- dry mouth
- lowered or weakened immune system
Cavities occur when plaque changes sugar and starches from food or beverages into acid. The acid then attacks the enamel of the tooth resulting in dental cavities. Older adults, often those with receding gums, are more susceptible to developing worsening cavities because they are often at the root of the tooth.
Dry mouth, also more common in older adults, leads to a buildup of bacteria in the mouth. This buildup of bacteria leaves the mouth subject to tooth decay and cavities.
How to Protect Your Oral Health
Adequate dental care is the only way to keep your teeth and gums happy and healthy. This includes:
- brush your teeth two times per day
- floss daily
- attend regular dental checkups
- avoid sugary food and drinks
- do not use tobacco products
Call your dentist if you begin to experience tooth pain, swollen or uncomfortable gums, dry mouth, mouth sores, discolored patches in the mouth, halitosis or bad breath, or loose teeth. It is recommended to see a dentist at least every 6 months for x-rays, thorough teeth cleaning, and a dental exam.
Dental Group of Simi Valley
The Dental Group of Simi Valley is a family-owned dental practice located in sunny Simi Valley, CA. Dr. Ivan Berger opened this practice in 1963 and it is now run by second-generation dental professional Dr. Herschel Berger and his wife Dr. Laura Jen Kin.
We provide all dental procedures including CEREC dentistry, cosmetic dentistry, dental implants, veneers, and family dental care. Our staff maintains healthy, beautiful smiles, focusing on one client at a time to give you the best care available.
In our family-run business, our team is dedicated to ensuring all clients are treated like extended family members by making them feel at home in our office. At the Dental Group of Simi Valley, we can help with all of your oral health needs. Give us a call today to speak with one of our friendly staff members.