As people age, the structure and appearance of their teeth and mouth in general can change. This has to do with many factors including the fact that loss in dexterity, a decrease in eyesight, and sometimes diminished cognition can contribute to a decline in oral care. The older community needs help when it comes to dental care. This is why in home dental care is so important.
Changes in the thickness of the enamel can cause yellowing and other discoloration while abrasions and attritions can change the general appearance of the teeth. Age also causes the number of blood vessels that enter the teeth and enamel to decrease which leads to reduce sensitivity. This decrease can cause the person to become less aware to problems since their body won’t react to the usual stimuli. With other biological factors contributing to the oral health decline in the elderly, there’s no wonder why geriatric dental care is important. The following are some of the most common geriatric dental problems along with a brief overview of each.
While dental caries can happen at any age, the gingival recession and the occurrence of periodontitis in older patients can cause root caries. Dental caries refer to the breakdown of the teeth because of bacteria. This includes tooth decay and cavities that can vary from yellow to black. Symptoms can be pain or difficulty eating while complications can include tissue inflammation, tooth loss, and infection as well as abscess formation.
The treatment for this can be regular dental hygiene along with professional dental care. If the root caries are shallow, fluoride gels, varnishes, and rinses can help.
The occurrence of periodontal diseases like gingivitis and periodontitis is high in the geriatric community, too. Gingivitis is when plaque accumulates on the gingival margins and causes gingival inflammation (gingivitis). Besides the swelling, the gums can also bleed with minimal irritation including gentle brushing. Age, however, isn’t the only cause for gingivitis as poor oral health in any age can cause this.
Periodontitis is one step above gingivitis as it causes the periodontal ligament to detach from the cementum (the material covering the root surface) and the tooth itself. This can cause an increase in the gingival pocket depth along with tooth loosening and loss. Moreover, this particular issue can lead to worse health issues like cardiovascular disease and pneumonia.
The treatment for this includes improved oral hygiene including daily brushing and flossing as well as professional dental care that includes plaque removal or surgery and oral antibiotics in severe cases while extraction will be needed when nothing else helps.
Also known as dry mouth, this is caused by a decrease in saliva production. The proper amount of saliva prevents decay and protects against infections. The symptoms for this, other than the dry mouth itself, can be a burning sensation, a loss or change in taste, and difficulty swallowing and talking. Dry mouth can usually be caused by medications as well as illness in the geriatric community.
To prevent this from happening, older patients are encouraged to drink more water, lower their intake of caffeine or sugary foods and drinks, and avoid alcohol. Chewing gum or sucking on candy can be a way to induce saliva production but they should be sugarless.
These are just a small sampling of the dental problems that face the geriatric community. With proper dental hygiene and the help of professional home dental care, these dental issues can be prevented and better treated.