Americans are living longer and seniors need to take special steps to retain oral health. In many ways, the mouth is a reflection of our general health. There is much we can tell about one from another. For example, the medicine prescribed for the body can have adverse effects on oral health. On the other hand, declining oral health can worsen physical conditions, like diabetes. The swelling of gums or gum disease can act as a detection for stroke and heart disease.

Seniors may see a greater amount of cavities in the roots of their teeth due to gum recession. In fact, a recent study claims 1/3 of adults older than 65 have untreated cavities. Stemming from gum recession, gum disease is also a concern. Poor fitting dentures can advance the progressive condition, as well as chronic illnesses like cancer. Oral cancer is 7 times more prevalent in adults aged 65 or older. There are more senior deaths attributed to oral cancer than skin cancer. Early detection checks are key! Many elderly people suffer from dry mouth (xerostomia). This lack of lubrication is not just inconvenient, but detrimental, as saliva contains important digestive enzymes, acid neutralizers and bacteria fighters. Prescription medicines often serve as the culprit for dry mouth.

The good news is age itself is not a risk factor for poor dental health or tooth loss. Practice of good hygiene is imperative. Brushing twice a day and flossing once needs to be incorporated into regular care. This may be hard with arthritis or physical limitations, so be sure to utilize tools like large grip toothbrushes and floss holders. Lastly, don’t forget to schedule biannual exams with Dr. Auslander. Our aging patients are our top priority.

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