It’s one of the unfortunate facts about growing older – along with the perks of increased wisdom and (hopefully) a peaceful retirement, the body tends to deteriorate with the passing of time. And it’s no different in the dental department.
It goes without saying that following a good dental hygiene routine – brushing and flossing twice daily, and biannual visits to the oral hygienist – is crucial for anyone wanting to maintain a healthy mouth, full of teeth and free of gum disease. It’s even more important for elderly people, who tend to have lower immunity and greater vulnerability to infection.
But besides tooth decay and infected gums, there are a number of other dental issues faced frequently by elderly people. We look at some of the most common, and how to handle them.
According to research published in the journal Health Plus in November 2013, as many as half of all people aged 60 and over experience complete tooth loss, with the result that a high proportion of elderly people opt for dentures. It’s vital to care properly for dentures to maintain a healthy mouth and avoid developing painful and foul-smelling bacterial infections: remove dentures and clean them thoroughly at least once a day with a suitable product such as Super Corega Denture Cleanser, available in Clicks stores.
Bridges too, are a common feature of old age. Since they obstruct the pathway between the bridged tooth and the gum, it’s not possible to use regular floss to clean around them. The easiest way to do so is with Superfloss, which has a stiff end that enables it to be threaded into the tight gap between the bridge and the gum. The floss can then be moved from side to side to facilitate cleaning beneath or above the bridge, and up and down on either side to remove plaque below the gumline.
One of the most common dental problems faced by senior citizens is a dry mouth. A major reason for this is that many chronic diseases experienced in old age require medications with multiple side-effects, of which oral dryness is one. The condition is not only uncomfortable, but also speeds up gum recession significantly and increases the risk of root area cavities. To combat a dry mouth, take frequent sips of water or rinse your mouth regularly, use a specially-formulated toothpaste or mouthwash, and apply a good lip moisturiser frequently.
One of the more unpleasant side effects of a dry mouth is bad breath, as the lack of saliva means that mouth acids cannot be neutralised, or dead cells washed away. You can control halitosis by means of healthy eating, drinking plenty of water and brushing and flossing regularly, and using products such as Clicks germ-fighting mouthwash and Sweet Breath spray or drops. But if it is severe or persistent, you should consult a medical professional – in certain cases it could signal a more sinister underlying disorder, including diabetes, liver or kidney problems, acid reflux, or periodontal disease.