Dental Health Concerns for Seniors

Dental hygiene is important for individuals of all ages; however, seniors experience specific dental health issues due both to age and other factors. Here, the senior care providers at Avila Home Care discuss common dental health concerns for seniors, as well as strategies to maintain good dental health.

Increased Likelihood of Cavities

Cavities, or permanent decaying of the tooth that causes holes, are commonly associated with those who are very young, but as we become older, the risk of cavities increases once again. A common risk factor for cavities in the elderly is dry mouth, as a lack of saliva prevents food debris and bacteria from being washed off of tooth surfaces. While dry mouth is not a symptom of aging, it is a side effect of many medications that seniors are commonly prescribed, including those to manage blood pressure, allergies, asthma, high cholesterol, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, anxiety and pain. It is advisable to inform your dentist of any medications you are taking so they can mitigate the damage of potential side effects.

Ways to Prevent Cavities

By preventing dry mouth and using good dental hygiene habits, seniors can do a lot to prevent the onset of cavities. The easiest way to prevent dry mouth is to drink water regularly throughout the day, instead of waiting for a feeling of thirst. Over-the-counter oral moisturizers are also available in both spray and mouthwash forms, which can be used daily. Seniors who experience dry mouth are also advised to avoid foods and beverages that exacerbate dryness, including alcohol, coffee, acidic fruits and fruit juices and carbonated soft drinks.

Besides avoiding dry mouth, proper dental hygiene can prevent cavities. Seniors should brush their teeth for two minutes at least twice a day, making sure to focus on the front, sides and back of teeth, as well as the tongue. Floss once daily and use a bacteria-fighting mouthwash if desired.

Heightened Risk of Gum Disease

Gum disease occurs when the bacteria in plaque irritates the gums, making them red, swollen and more likely to bleed. If left untreated, gum disease can cause the gums to recess, leaving deep pockets where food debris and bacteria may get caught. This can cause gums, bone and ligaments to teeth to be eaten away. Because gum disease is a painless condition in its early stages, and many seniors do not see dental health professionals regularly, it often goes untreated until it has reached an advanced stage.

Ways to Prevent Gum Disease

Besides appropriate dental hygiene, seniors can also prevent gum disease by seeing a dental health professional twice a year. Although Medicare does not cover dental health checkups, there are other affordable options for seniors on a fixed income. Some organizations, like AARP, offer supplemental dental insurance plans for their members. You can also find discount dental plans that typically offer reduced costs services for out-of-pocket payment at the National Association of Dental Plans website.

Let an Avila Home Care Provider Play a Role in Your Dental Health

Many seniors are no longer able to drive, and this may play a role in how often they seek out medical services, including dental care. If you or an elderly loved one require mobility services to attend appointments or run errands, contact the home care providers at Avila Home Care. Their dedicated service providers can help you retain a sense of independence and mobility for years to come, and also provide a wide variety of other services, including companionship, light housekeeping, medication reminders, meal preparation and more. To learn more about Avila, contact us today!


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