According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, by 2060, Americans aged 65 and older will make up 24% of the country’s population. As such, it’s becoming more and more necessary to bring to light the difficulties of health management at an older age, especially oral health care. This is because many older individuals are already neglecting to take care of their oral health, which has led to many common oral health issues in seniors.
At Downtown Dental Studios, we want to take care of both the seniors of today and those of the future. This is why our practitioners — Fadi Beydoun, DMD, MS; Alexander Kimon, DMD; Karina Zaygermakher, DMD — feel strongly about educating everyone as to the common oral health issues in those aged 65 and up.
The lowdown on senior oral health
But first, let’s talk about why seniors often have issues with oral health. The CDC states that, in many cases, seniors lose their dental health coverage after retirement, and Medicare (the program on which many seniors rely) doesn’t cover routine dental visits. In addition, other issues can contribute to a lack of oral health care, such as
- Socioeconomic disparity
- Disadvantages associated with race or another minority status
- Being homebound or living in a nursing home
Any of these issues may increase one’s likelihood of experiencing oral health problems as a senior. Also, as stated by the National Library of Medicine, some natural parts of the aging process — such as cells renewing more slowly, weakening of the immune system, and bone density beginning to disappear — can also contribute to oral health problems. All of this begs the question: which issues should you be looking out for in yourself and your loved ones?
Typical oral health problems that affect seniors
Below are some of the most common oral health problems that affect senior citizens.
Though it may not sound like much, dry mouth is a common problem among seniors that can lead to other, more severe issues. Mouth sores, thrush, and difficulty tasting, swallowing, and chewing can all be side effects of dry mouth. The origin of the problem can be many different things, from the use of a certain medication to simply a side effect of old age.
Gum disease is another potential side effect of dry mouth and diabetes, smoking, or simply not receiving proper dental care regularly. Gum disease can potentially lead to the need for gum surgery in extreme cases.
Cavities are becoming more and more common as increased numbers of seniors live with their natural teeth for longer. Also, receding gums are often an issue among older adults, sometimes caused by a lifetime of brushing too hard. When the gums recede, the chances of getting a cavity increase. Cavities can be filled, but severely decayed teeth might require treatment like a root canal or even extraction.
Whether from a cavity, an injury, or another cause, tooth loss is also widespread among seniors. Some individuals don’t lose all of their teeth, as previously stated, but even losing one tooth — or having a decaying tooth that has not been treated — can lead to severe issues for your oral health on the whole.
Unfortunately, oral cancer is much more likely to occur in your senior years, as the median age of diagnosis is 62. Men, smokers, and people who do not take proper care of their oral health are more likely to suffer from oral cancer.
Visit our office today
If you are experiencing any of these common issues of senior oral health, or if you are just now realizing it’s been a while since you’ve seen your dentist, let us help. Call 212-964-3337 or book an appointment online today to visit our office in NYC’s Financial District.