5 Things to Know About Aging and Dental Health

aging and dental health

You've taken great care of your teeth and gums for most of your life, but as you age, new risks and challenges may influence your dental health in unexpected ways. Because of these risks, an astounding 27% of people over 65 have no teeth, and gum disease is prevalent. You don't have to be one of them. Let's explore five things you need to know about dental health as you age.

1. Comorbidities may influence dental health

As we age, we're more likely to develop several chronic illnesses like:

These conditions and others may contribute to dental health issues. For example, a person with diabetes may have excess glucose in the bloodstream and saliva because their body can't process it quickly enough. Glucose is "sugar" so this means that you may have more sugar around the teeth and gums, fueling harmful mouth bacteria and increasing the risk of tooth decay. In the case of depression, a person may stop "caring" about dental health or find themselves constantly forgetting to brush because of the toll that this disease takes on the memory. Many other illnesses can impact dental health in surprising ways like these.

2. Dental health is strongly linked to overall health

Even if you think you're physically healthy, poor dental health could signal that something's wrong of which you need to be aware. In some cases, a poor physical health condition like those above may cause dental challenges, but, in other cases, the causality relationship seems to go the other way.

For example, the same bacteria that cause gum disease can enter the bloodstream where it makes its way to the heart, which may lead to cardiovascular disease or endocarditis, which is a heart infection. Researchers have also found this same bacteria in the joints of people with the painful and disabling auto-immune disorder rheumatoid arthritis. In order to stay active and age healthily, excellent dental hygiene is a must as we age.

3. Medications may impact dental health

Many medications have side effects that influence dental health. Even the seemingly "innocent" ones like dry mouth may increase your risk of developing problems with the teeth and gums because it reduces saliva.

Read the warnings and be on the lookout for medications that say they may cause:

As a geriatric dentist, Dr. Atli helps you review the side effects and manage them to reduce your risk of permanent damage or daily discomfort.

4.  Increased risk of severe gum disease

Receding gums, increased risk of dry mouth, increased stress, and loss of dexterity all put those over 65 at increased risk of developing severe gum disease. While you've always taken good care of your mouth, Dr. Atli recommends that you introduce new strategies to your routine to maintain dental health as you age. These include:

5. Regular checkups can reduce your risk

Getting regular dental checkups with your geriatric specialist, Dr. Atli, helps keep your mouth healthier as you age by removing bacteria-harboring plaque that can't be removed at home, helping you manage disease- or medication-caused side effects, and catching any cancer concerns early. The American Cancer Society estimates that 53,000 people will develop oral and throat cancers this year from which nearly 11,000 will die. Regular dental checkups are one of your first places that oral and upper esophageal cancers get detected.

Do everything you can at home to protect your teeth and gums as you age, but realize that regular check-ups with a geriatric dentist are essential for healthy teeth and gums. Contact Global Dental Group to schedule an appointment.

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