Fortunately, many of today’s seniors have some, if not all, of their teeth. This is largely due to the fact that modern dentistry promotes saving teeth with either root canal or gum treatment instead of pulling teeth as was often advocated in the past.
Many seniors are keeping their teeth longer and recent studies have found that senior citizens have a much higher rate of cavities than children.
Dental Treatment for senior citizens needs to be handled a little more differently that younger patients
Cavities : Due to the high prevalence of at least some form of gum disease, most seniors have varying degrees of exposure of the tooth roots caused by gum recession. These exposed roots are composed of a dental tissue called cementum (on the outer surface) that is considerably weaker than the enamel that covers the teeth above a healthy gum line. These exposed roots are prime targets for cavity-forming acids.
Dry Mouth : Certain medications taken by seniors can reduce the flow of saliva, which may increase the incidence of cavities. Saliva is important in fighting cavities because it rinses away plaque and food debris, and helps neutralize cavity-forming acids. Medications for anxiety, for depression, for hypertension and other cardiovascular disorders, for pain and a host of other medications are associated with dry mouth and reduced salivary flow.
Limited Mobility: Seniors may have medical conditions that reduce their manual dexterity, and, subsequently, have a negative impact on their oral hygiene. Common ailments that effect oral hygiene include arthritis, stroke, Parkinson’s disease, poor vision and many others. The inability to remove food debris with thorough brushing and flossing greatly increases the likelihood of developing cavities.
Seniors can reduce the possibility of getting cavities by using fluoride treatment in the dental office , or have customized trays made to deliver a potent level of fluoride to be used by seniors while at home.
Seniors taking medications that cause dry mouth should be encouraged to chew sugarless gum or having their dentist prescribe artificial saliva and mouth moisturizers to improve mouth comfort, as well as help wash away damaging plaque and food debris.