Oral Health Information and Tips for Older Adults
Effects of aging and medications. Ways to prevent and treat common issues.
It may come as a surprise to you that in contrast to losing your hair, losing your teeth is not a part of growing older. However, getting older does put us at a disproportionate risk for oral health problems which frequently results in tooth loss. As an older patient, oral health risks increase because of a few common reasons. Continue reading below where we address these issues and how to deal with them…
- After retiring, you may be at a loss of insurance coverage for dental procedures…
The kind of routine dental care that seniors need most—checkups, cleanings and fillings—is not covered by Medicare and out-of-pocket dental expenses are costly. It is important to maintain a consistent oral hygiene regimen in order to minimize the chance that major dental work needs to be done. 6-month cleanings and taking x-rays at your dental appointments are very important in protecting both your health, and your wallet. These procedures are much less costly than major dental work and help prevent the big issues from arising. By taking the necessary steps needed to prevent major issues, your mouth, and your wallet will be immensely grateful. The good news is that we have insurance coordinators that can assist you in maximizing any dental benefits you may have. We also offer a senior discount for many of these preventative services.
- Dry mouth….
Dr. Joe and Dr. Ted may refer to this as “xerostomia”. Dry mouth may be a natural result of aging, but it is also a common side effect of more than 400 medications. On the surface, dry mouth may not seem like such a big deal, but in reality it has detrimental effects on your teeth. The reason for this is that saliva plays a very important role in protecting teeth from decay. Saliva has a plethora of important antimicrobial components which help protect teeth and gums from infection. When there is a lack of saliva, teeth are more prone to infection causing bacteria. A good way to combat dry mouth and the tooth decay that comes with it is to use XyliMelts or another type of lozenge specifically designed for dry mouth. It is also advisable to drink lots of water and to brush after every meal, not just in the mornings and nights. If you find that you are prescribed medication that causes dry mouth, you can always ask Dr. Joe or Dr. Ted to provide suggestions for alternative medications which do not have the dry mouth side effect.
- Arthritis makes brushing and flossing difficult…
More often than not, technology is a wonderful thing. If traditional brushing and flossing are extremely difficult for you, the electric toothbrush is a great alternative. It is proven that some electric toothbrushes such as Sonicare and Oral-B do an even better job at removing plaque than traditional toothbrushes. If traditional flossing is a problem as well, a bag of floss picks can be purchased inexpensively at most pharmacies or supermarkets. A more effective, but also more expensive option is to buy a “water pick” which enables you to floss using water pressure.
- Periodontal Disease
One of the most common dental issues persistent in older patients is periodontal disease. If you find that you are diagnosed with severe gingivitis or periodontal disease it is extra important to brush and floss every day. Brushing and flossing is more effective when done with an electric toothbrush and a “water pick”. Dr. Joe and Dr. Ted can also prescribe special toothpastes or gels that help combat dental disease, as well as a daily treatment of high-fluoride anti-bacterial rinse.
- Missing teeth or ill-fitting dentures make it difficult to eat…
Your mouth is continuously changing over time, especially if you have missing teeth. As your mouth changes, your denture may not fit snugly, making it difficult to eat foods that are very important to your diet. Difficulty eating means you will likely eat less and also consume more foods that are highly processed, easier to chew, less nutritional, and worse for your overall health. If you find that problems with your teeth or denture are causing you to eat less, it is recommended that you schedule an appointment with us to have your denture readjusted. The dentist can also place a softer material on the gum side of the denture so they are more comfortable. If traditional dentures are not working out, ask Dr. Joe or Dr. Ted about implant supported dentures. Implants attach to the jaw bone, and a special denture snaps onto the implants. These implant-supported dentures fit more snugly, and they look and feel like real teeth!
The staff at Gargano Family Dentistry are always happy to answer questions about your oral health. Give our office a call at 203-239-2356 or visit our website: www.garganofamilydentistry.com