Getting older carries a higher risk of dental problems, including oral infections and tooth decay. Tooth loss is normally due to tooth infections and can make it significantly trickier to eat comfortably, so it is harder to chew certain foods, including those that are more nutritious and can negatively affect appearance. Complete tooth loss is less common in developed countries such as Australia, where many people have grown up with the benefit of improved oral health care. However, it can still frequently occur.
As we age, the risk of gum disease is also higher, which is a real concern. Not only can gum disease cause tooth loss, but it can also affect general health. Severe gum disease, called periodontitis, affects as many as two-thirds of the population over sixty-five. The bacteria that cause this disease can enter the bloodstream through bleeding gums. Once in the blood, they can travel throughout the body, potentially impacting heart health or increasing the risk of problems like diabetes, respiratory illnesses, or dementia. Sometimes people will need clearance from their dentist in preparation for heart treatment, especially heart valve replacements, and might need antibiotics if they have any signs of advanced periodontitis.
Dry mouth or xerostomia is another frequent complaint when getting older. A lack of saliva is often a side effect of medications, and drier conditions in the mouth allow harmful bacteria to thrive, increasing the risk of dental diseases such as tooth decay and gum disease.
How We Can Help Our Older Patients Maintain Good Oral Health
If you are getting older, preventive dentistry is even more important for maintaining strong teeth and healthy gums and protecting overall health. We provide every patient with a preventive dental care plan that is continually adjusted as they age. It is designed to help you gain and maintain optimal oral health easily so you enjoy a healthy smile and protect your general health, even during older age. Regular dental checkups are especially important so we can monitor your oral health closely and provide any necessary treatment more quickly, making you less likely to suffer from tooth loss or more significant oral health problems. If you have issues like dry mouth, we can work with you to minimise its impact on oral health, perhaps by recommending more frequent hygiene appointments or using a saliva substitute to help your mouth feel moister and more comfortable. Our dental team can also work with you to ensure you have an excellent daily oral care routine and use the best toothbrush, toothpaste and flossing tools for your needs.
You can help protect your dental health by eating healthily and avoiding too many sugary or starchy foods that could cause tooth decay. Instead, include plenty of fruits and vegetables, lean protein and whole grains in your diet, which will help protect your oral and general health. If you smoke, try to quit, as it greatly increases the risk of gum disease and oral cancer.