Our Teeth as We Age
Older Teeth: Dental Options for Seniors Offer Reasons to Smile
Older Americans may have wisdom and experience on their side – but unfortunately, they’re not off the hook when it comes to cavities. Surprisingly, tooth decay may be even higher among seniors than children for a variety of reasons, including an increase in gum recession. As a result, many seniors find themselves with less-than-attractive teeth and gums that causes shame and embarrassment, not to mention the potential for more serious health problems.
The widespread introduction of water fluoridation in the 1950’s had a dramatic impact on dental health, including a sharp decrease in cavities. Those born before that period did not reap those benefits. However, despite possible poor dental histories, most seniors can still take advantage of some innovative preventative, restorative and aesthetic dental solutions.
Today’s dentistry offers more options than ever to help our older population feel and look their best. Teeth whitening procedures can brighten natural teeth. Older crowns can be replaced with more natural-looking ones. Cosmetic bonding or porcelain veneers can repair chipped or cracked teeth.
Partial or full dentures and dental implants are popular options to assist seniors with more severe dental issues. For patients without insurance coverage or those on a fixed budget, financing is available.
Always Be Vigilant
Your dentist may be able to spot evidence of chronic health problems like osteoporosis, heart disease and diabetes just by looking into your mouth. And statistics show that oral cancer increases with age, apparently peaking between ages 60 and 70. So all seniors – even those with few or even no natural remaining teeth – need to visit their dentist regularly for screenings.
Even minor oral changes like unexplained bleeding, a suddenly uncomfortable denture fit or rough spots should be discussed. You should never assume that even small changes are simply due to “just getting older.”
More Helpful Tips for Seniors:
- Try to maintain a nutritious diet
- Clean dentures or removable bridges daily and store in cool water or a special denture solution
- Use an electric toothbrush if you’re arthritic and have gripping issues. Inserting a regular toothbrush handle into a rubber ball could also help
- Alert your dentist to any medications you are taking that might cause “dry mouth” which can promote decay
- Use a soft washcloth or gauze to help clean your teeth if you’re temporarily unable to brush