What dental services do senior adults need? Whether you're 65 plus or your loved one is, take a look at the top questions patients have about senior dental care.
What Dental Conditions Do Seniors Need to Pay Attention To?
Like dental patients of any age, seniors need to protect themselves against dental decay (cavities) and gum disease. Along with these oral issues, senior adults are more at risk for xerostomia—more commonly known as dry mouth. Not only is dry mouth uncomfortable, but it can make eating difficult and increase the risk of dental decay.
Along with dry mouth, or sometimes because of it, root caries are another major issue for adults over 65. A 2016 study of 334 older adults, published in the Journal of Dentistry, found that over 53 percent of the participants had at least one decayed (or decayed and filled) root surface.
Why Are Seniors at Risk for Dry Mouth?
Medication use, some chronic health conditions, and dehydration can put the older adult at risk for xerostomia. If you (or your loved one) have dry mouth, talk to the dental professional about the disorder before taking action. Along with simple at-home strategies, such as increasing water intake, the dentist may have other recommendations or ways to reduce the symptoms.
Why Are Seniors at Risk for Root Caries?
Before you can understand why seniors are more at risk for root caries, you may need to learn more about what this oral issue is. Root caries are exactly what the name implies—dental caries (cavities) of the roots. Like dental caries on other tooth surfaces, root caries require treatment. Failure to treat this issue can lead to a more serious infection or tooth loss.
In some cases, dry mouth can increase the senior's risk for developing root caries. Without an adequate amount of saliva to wash away debris and oral bacteria, root caries are more likely to develop. Beyond the risks of dry mouth, gum recession can also leave the roots exposed and open to caries.
How Often Should Senior Adults Visit the Dentist?
Along with at-home oral care (proper brushing and flossing), dental office visits are essential for every senior adult. Like younger adults, seniors should consider annual or twice a year professional care. If you or your loved one has an existing issue, such as dry mouth or root caries, you may need to see the dentist more often. Always contact the dentist if you have pain, discomfort, or a noticeable change.