Dental Concerns for Patients over 50

Good news! According to the American Dental Association (ADA), Americans in their golden years are now keeping their natural teeth longer than any other time.  The average number of teeth that older people are retaining is growing.

However, as these individuals hold on to their teeth longer, more problems are likely to develop. This is all the more reason why routine dental exams are so vital to maintaining oral health.  Some common teeth problems for older people and solutions are discussed as follows:

People over 50 can still develop cavities

  • Problem: Tooth decay isn’t just for kids. Older adults can get cavities on tooth surfaces that have never been a problem in the past. They can also develop at the root of a tooth or around an old filling. As people age, teeth roots soften and often become more exposed.
  • Solution: Fluoride treatment isn’t reserved for children either; it is one of the 10 most essential health measures to come out of the 20th Most people in the U.S. have fluorinated tap water. If you are not part of that 80 percent, try adding a fluoride rinse to your daily oral hygiene regime to avoid teeth problems. If necessary, your dentist may prescribe a gel with a stronger fluoride concentration. If you have fluoridated water and are suddenly starting to develop cavities, a dentist-recommended fluoride rinse may be the best solution.

A decrease in saliva production

  • Problem: Dry mouth is often a side effect of many prescription medications. As people grow older, they tend to require more prescriptions to function properly. Smoking and certain head injuries can also lead to salivary gland damage, resulting in dry mouth. Sufficient saliva production is your mouth’s best defense against tooth decay. If you are not producing enough, you may be at risk for decay and cavities. Signs of dry mouth include chapped lips, throat dryness and trouble swallowing, persistent foul breath or a metallic taste in your mouth.
  • Solution: Stimulate saliva production by sipping water throughout the day or by chewing sugarless gum or candy with Xylitol. A saliva substitute might be prescribed by your dentists or an over-the-counter remedy may be suggested.

Untreated gum disease

  • Problem: Gingivitis is characterized by red, swollen gums that bleed easily. This is an early stage of gum disease. If this dangerous condition progresses it becomes periodontitis, where the gum pulls away from the tooth allowing for pockets of infection. Eventually, bone loss occurs in the jaw resulting in the loss of teeth.
  • Solution: Routine dental check-ups are the best way to monitor your oral health. More frequent professional teeth cleanings many be necessary to ward off the further development of the condition. People who practice good oral habits and keep up with routine dental visits are less likely to develop gum disease.

Teeth shifting with age

  • Problem: Shifting teeth are just another part of the aging process. If you have been noticing food getting stuck in new areas in your mouth or if your teeth are starting to overlap, you probably have shifting teeth. Teeth shifting with age can be problematic because it makes them harder to clean. Also, misaligned teeth are more prone to teeth erosion and possible damage to the supporting bone and underlying tissues. Combined with older adult’s tendency to develop gum disease, shifting teeth may accelerate tooth loss.
  • Solution: Orthodontic care may be the answer to fixing a problem with shifting teeth. You may need to be fitted for a spacer, retainer or possibly braces in severe cases. Your dentist will discuss the best treatment options with you. You may only need to have your teeth cleaned more frequently.