Oral Health Issues And Older Patients

Treatment of later years problems at our Canterbury dental clinic

Dental problems can happen to anybody if they don’t look after their teeth well. If you don’t brush effectively, or have a diet that is high in sugar; tooth decay, and perhaps other issues, are almost certain to follow.

Whilst this can happen at any age, there are a number of oral care issues which are more likely to arise when we become older. At the Bradley and Partners Dental and Implant Clinic, we believe that our patients deserve the best treatments available, whatever their age.

Wear and tear

As you would expect, even if you brush and floss your teeth well; by the time you have reached your later years, there is likely to be some general wear and tear of the teeth. Small chips may have broken off at various times, which were not even noticeable. A number of these may weaken the tooth structure a little and, perhaps, cause it to crack as well.

In some cases, these small cracks and chips could expose the dentin layer beneath the enamel, potentially increasing the likelihood of tooth decay and even root canal infections. Almost certainly though, they will cause the tooth to look unattractive and even dull in colour.

Whilst a tooth whitening procedure may help to restore the colour in older people’s teeth, it can sometimes be more appropriate to have veneers fitted as these not only restore the tooth colour, but also remove the issues of cracks and chips which the whitening treatment won’t.

Missing teeth

It is perfectly possible to reach old age with a full set of teeth. This requires not only good cleaning and professional care, but also an element of luck. The longer we live, the more time there has been for the teeth to become damaged. There is also the issue of an increased risk of gum disease, which we will look at shortly. All of these can mean that most older patients will suffer tooth loss to some degree.

The ‘traditional’ method of replacing missing teeth is the use of dentures. These are not without their problems though, and not only do some people find them to be uncomfortable and unstable within the mouth, but, when they eat, they find certain foods quite difficult to chew, and may well start to eliminate them from their diet. As older people need to be careful to get adequate nutrition to help them stay healthy and indeed to enjoy, this can be more difficult if you have to avoid some foods because of your dentures.

Increasingly, older people are now choosing to have dental implants instead of dentures. These can usually be placed for patients of any adult age, and older age need not be a barrier. Dental implants give older patients a new lease of life, eliminating inconvenient dentures and enabling them to have the confidence to eat any food that they wish.

Periodontitis

As we mentioned earlier, gum disease is sometimes more difficult to keep under control when you get older. Although this can be helped with a good brushing and flossing regimen, one of the main causes in older people is that they generally produce less saliva.

Saliva flow plays a big part in gum disease control. Not only does it wash away food particles and bacteria from the oral cavity, but a lack of it provides a warm dry mouth, especially when we are asleep. This is the perfect breeding environment for bacteria that contribute to gum disease, and with this environment, it becomes increasingly difficult to keep their numbers under control.

Older patients need to make sure that they stay well hydrated, especially before going to bed. They may also wish to consider more frequent appointments with the dental hygienist at our Canterbury practice, in order to help keep oral bacteria under better control. Failure to do so may well lead to periodontal diseases that can lead to tooth loss if not effectively treated.

Bad breath/halitosis

It is not uncommon for older people to have bad breath and this problem is often linked to the gum issues mentioned above. This unpleasant smell is caused not only by the infected gums themselves, but by gases expelled by the bacteria as they irritate the gums.

Once again, good gum health care, as described above, is by far the best way to prevent this potentially embarrassing situation from arising.

It is never too late to do something about your teeth (and gums) and however old you are, you should see a dentist on a regular basis. At Bradley and Partners Dental and Implant Clinic, we are always happy to see patients of all ages. To make an appointment to see a dentist at our practice, please call us on 01227 463529.