Gum disease or periodontitis is an infection of the gums and soft tissues in the mouth, and almost half of all adults over the age of 30 suffer from it. Gum disease is the leading cause of tooth decay, but scientific research has also shown it can have a negative effect on other parts of the body because bacteria that cause periodontitis can enter your bloodstream and travel to other places. Specifically, researchers have linked gum disease to an increased risk for respiratory problems, coronary artery disease, rheumatoid arthritis and poor blood sugar control in people with diabetes.
The good news is that gum disease is often preventable. Brushing twice per day, flossing once per day and getting your teeth cleaned at the dentist regularly can go a long way toward reducing the risk of gum disease.
The older you get, the more likely you are to lose teeth. Almost 20% of adults aged 65 and older have complete tooth loss, and the problem is twice as common among seniors aged 75 and older than those aged 64 to 75.
Part of the reason seniors are more prone to tooth loss is that many older adults go without dental care. Approximately 1 in 5 seniors have untreated tooth decay that can lead to dental problems, including tooth loss. Dentures, dental implants and bridges can help fill in missing teeth, but seniors may be able to avoid needing these appliances by keeping up with a daily oral care routine and seeing a dentist regularly.
Dry mouth is a condition where the body doesn’t produce enough saliva to properly lubricate the mouth. While it can affect people of all ages, it’s most common among seniors.
Mild cases of dry mouth can cause bad breath, a sticky feeling in the mouth, changes in taste, soreness or hoarseness of the throat, and problems speaking, chewing and swallowing. If the condition persists, it can lead to even more discomfort like split skin at the corners of the mouth, mouth sores and yeast infections of the gums.
If you have symptoms of dry mouth, talk to your dentist. Medication, rinses and other treatments can help alleviate the symptoms. Your dentist may also advise you to drink more water during the day to improve your hydration levels.
Many seniors take at least one prescription medication to manage a chronic medical condition. While medications can reduce symptoms of health problems, some cause dry mouth. These drugs include:
If you’re experiencing dry mouth, let your health care provider know. You may be able to switch to a different medication that will allow you to control your condition while having less impact on your oral health.
If arthritis pain and stiffness or another condition makes it difficult or painful for you to brush and floss your teeth, there are solutions out there.
Each year, more than 54,000 people are diagnosed with oral cancer, and the average age is 64. The good news is that oral cancers on the floor of the mouth, tongue and lip have a 73% to 94% 5-year relative survival rate when caught early, while the disease is still localized. Checking for signs of oral care is a standard part of any dental exam, so seeing your dentist as often as recommended can mean a quicker diagnosis.
If you need a dentist, the American Dental Association (ADA) offers a convenient search tool to help you find one in the Fort Worth, TX, area. Residents of Bethesda Gardens Fort Worth can receive free transportation to and from appointments as a part of our services and amenities, and many Medicare Part C plans will even help pay for services. Set up an appointment for an oral cancer screening and complete dental checkup and cleaning to promote both dental health and overall health and well-being.
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