A lifetime of chewing, grinding, and general wear and tear can take its toll on your teeth. Add complications from certain medical conditions and medication side effects, and oral health becomes more important than ever for senior citizens. Prevention, by way of daily brushing and flossing and regular trips to the dentist, is the best defense.
However, proper oral care can become more challenging with age, leading to minor or major dental problems. Here is a list of common dental procedures for seniors and how they help address common geriatric dental concerns.
Gum disease is one of the most common senior dental problems, caused by the buildup of bacteria in the mouth from poor oral care. Substandard nutrition and tobacco use also cause gum disease, and certain diseases like anemia, cancer and diabetes can also increase the risk. Gum disease can lead to tooth loss, root decay, and periodontitis.
When tooth loss is widespread, dentures can be used to replace a full arch of missing teeth. Dentures must be properly cleaned on a daily basis, and if they become ill-fitting, patients should get a new set as soon as possible to prevent the onset of stomatitis, an inflammation of the gum tissue caused by loose dentures.
When the outer layer of enamel in teeth thins over the years, teeth can start to look darkened. Years of drinking coffee or other staining beverages, along with smoking, also negatively affect tooth appearance. Properly cleaning teeth is sometimes a challenge for seniors, especially those with decreased dexterity due to arthritis or other medical conditions.
When teeth are stained, damaged, cracked, or broken, crowns can be used to protect them. Crowns are partial prosthetics that cover the entire natural tooth down to the gum line. Proper brushing and flossing will help reduce the likelihood of needing crowns, and it’s worth noting that seniors with decreased dexterity often find electric toothbrushes easier and more effective to use.
- Dental implants
Tooth loss and tooth decay are a common concern among senior dental patients, but dentures are not always the answer. When a tooth is too damaged or decayed to support a crown, dental implants are often a great option.
Dental implants involve a titanium screw implanted into the jawbone and topped with a prosthetic tooth crown, which is much stronger and longer-lasting than traditional crowns. Dental implants can replace a single tooth, a few teeth, or even a full arch of teeth. Unlike dentures, implants preserve bone structure and look and function like real teeth.
- Gum surgery
It is possible to prevent or halt the progress of gum disease with proper brushing and flossing, but when left untreated, it can lead to a serious gum infection called periodontitis. Gum disease causes the gums to recede, increasing the risk of tooth loss. Receding gums are also caused and exacerbated by teeth grinding and tobacco smoking. Damaged gum tissue can be restored with surgery on the gums, and gum grafting is often used in extreme cases of receding gums.
- Oral cancer treatment
The odds of developing oral cancer increase with age, and the risks are even more severe for people who smoke or drink alcohol frequently. During regular checkups, dentists monitor and address persistent sores or ulcers in the mouth, and keep an eye out for irregular tissue changes or lumps in the mouth, face, head, and neck.
Early intervention and comprehensive cancer treatment are incredibly important, which is why regular visits to the dentist should be part of any senior citizen’s overall health care regimen. It’s also important to note that one of the side effects of cancer treatment—oral cancer or otherwise—is dry mouth, which reduces saliva flow and increases the risk of gum disease. Many medications for seniors result in dry mouth, another reason it’s especially important to maintain proper dental care.
Dental procedures for seniors in Tehachapi
If you or a senior loved one is in need of a geriatric dentist in Tehachapi, we’re here to help. At Sedation and Implant Dentistry of Tehachapi, we understand the importance of senior dental care and our professional specialists are trained in prevention and treatment of senior-specific oral health issues. Give us a call or fill out our contact form to schedule a consultation today.