General dental issues faced by seniors
Although elderly people face a barrage of oral issues, there are some specific teeth and gum problems that they’ll need to be cautious about. Following are some universal dental problems that most seniors have to put up with.
- Tooth decay is the most widespread of all oral ailments that seniors are plagued with. Plaque which builds up in our teeth reacts with the starches (carbohydrates) in the food condiments to produce acids which steadily erode the enamel leading to cavities and tooth decay.
- Dryness of mouth is another annoying irritant in seniors that results in mouth getting parched as the capacity of the salivary glands to release saliva decreases with age. Continuous flow of saliva is very important to keep the mouth moist and fight bacteria. Salivary flow is self-cleansing for teeth as well.
- Tooth loss in seniors is very common that might result from a multiplicity of dental or oral problems like gum disease, tooth decay, tooth erosion.
- Gum or periodontal disease causes infection in gums on which the teeth are embedded and has also been known to trigger heart attacks or strokes. Periodontal disease is a serious ailment that leads to gingivitis as well as periodontitis. Gum disease is also one major cause of tooth loss in elders.
- Receding or eroding gums occur as a result of loss of gum tissue. Owing to the wear and tear associated with brushing of the teeth over the years, the gums which act as a protective sheath, suffer erosion and make the teeth vulnerable to infections.
- Teeth sensitivity afflicts many seniors and is experienced as a tingling sensation in the teeth when one takes hot tea or coffee, iced drinks, ice-cream or sweets. When teeth become exposed due to the abrasion of dentin, teeth sensitivity is acutely felt.
Seniors also suffer from other dental problems and disorders like halitosis, oral pre-cancers and cancer, mouth ulcers and sores, tooth erosion and so on.
Symptoms and causes of dental problems in seniors
Dentists and oral care specialists unanimously agree that oral or dental health is a significant pointer to basic health. Dental problems, if not tackled and left untreated, can lead to a variety of diseases like heart and lung diseases, kidney diseases, cancer, diabetes, and a host of other ailments.
Several factors, either single-handedly or in combination, are responsible for causing dental problems in seniors. The teeth have to break down the food completely before it can be ingested. After a prolonged period of chewing, drinking, eating, and swallowing, the working capacity of the teeth gets depreciated. On top of that, brushing of teeth day in and day out for an extended period also takes its toll.
Continuous wear and tear and exposure to the elements cause the teeth to become fragile and brittle that makes chewing and swallowing food difficult leading to indigestion. Owing to fragility and brittleness of teeth, and wearing away of gums, the mouth becomes susceptible or vulnerable to several infections both chronic and seasonal.
Smoking, side effects of certain medication, systemic diseases, ill-fitting dentures, bridges, and implants, unhealthy diets, and stain causing foods and beverages lead to tooth decay and loss. Other major problems are dry mouth (xerostomia), gingivitis, periodontitis, root decay, halitosis, and tooth sensitivity.
Apart from ageing, specific degenerative medical conditions like arthritis, rheumatism, osteoporosis and Parkinson’s disease affect one’s ability of using the hands or fingers for brushing the teeth properly. One is also not able to floss their teeth or tongue properly.
Some common symptoms of gum disease and other dental problems are:-
- Receding gums
- Teeth sensitivity
- Bleeding, tender and painful gums
- Swollen and reddish gums
- Halitosis (bad breath)
- Root decay
- Painful mastication
Natural solutions for teeth and gum care
There are many natural solutions and remedies for taking holistic care of your gums and teeth. Abiding by these tips will keep you from visiting the dentist. Stick to a balanced diet and eat foods rich in Vitamins C and D. Vitamin C works as an anti-oxidant preventing plaque formation, promoting connective tissue growth, and cleanses the teeth. It also checks gum disease. Imbibing Vitamin C as a natural supplement by eating fresh fruits like oranges, mangoes, and lemons is a good remedy.
You should also take in Vitamin D that acts a substantial anti-flatulent and has anti-inflammatory properties. Your body takes in Vitamin D when you sunbathe or go for a suntan on the beach. If you’re susceptible to sunlight, you can get your dose from cheese, milk, butter, eggs, and cod liver oil.
You can use oil of tea tree, lavender oil, parsley, calendula, and echinacea for the treatment of canker sores and inflammatory gums, and allaying halitosis. Seniors can use coenzyme 10 which acts as a natural healer and is instrumental in patching up damaged or injured gum tissues.
Eating cranberries either raw or in juicy form will go a long way in arresting bacterial growth and plaque deposition on teeth. Do not take juice concentrates containing artificial additives. Using clove oil concentrate helps in alleviating toothaches and containing bacterial growth. Flushing your teeth and rinsing your mouth with organic mouthwashes is another standard option. Eat fish, nuts, cinnamon, avocadoes and kiwi fruit to supply your body with oils having antibiotic and microbial properties.
Some preventive and precautionary steps will help seniors maintain oral health and hygiene:
- Brushing teeth twice a day will avert bacterial and micro-organic formation on teeth and gums
- Tongue cleaning will prevent bacteria from harbouring and causing bad breath
- Flossing on a daily basis will also effectively combat the dental issues of plaque and tartar
- Visiting your dentist regularly for thorough check-ups and treatment procedures
- Going for dentures (removable or fixed appliances) that fit perfectly
- Avoiding tobacco and alcohol will help in reaping the beneficial effects of treatments
- Using a mouthwash for frequent rinsing prevents halitosis or breath
- Using a toothbrush with soft bristles will forestall connective tissue damage
- Drinking 8-10 glasses of water every day will help in the healthy functioning of salivary glands
- Cleaning dentures thoroughly will considerably dispel bacterial growth, ensure proper mastication and control bad breath
It does not take much to take proper oral care. Regular brushing, following some homemade remedies, consuming enough vitamins and essential oils can help you take your oral health in your stride.