Aging Dental Issues

As we get older, wear and tear on the body’s organs, tissues and cells take a toll, while a weaker immune system increases the risk of infections. These issues impact oral health as well as general health and are affecting an increasing number of individuals because more people are living longer.

In this post, we’ll explore why dental problems become more prevalent as we get older. You’ll also discover how to rectify these issues and restore your oral health and your smile. And we’ll look at steps you can take to help avoid age-related oral health concerns.

Common Dental Issues as We Get Older

The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates the global population of over-60s will have almost doubled to 22 percent by 2050. Life expectancy in the States in 2023 is 79.11 years, compared with 68.14 in 1950. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) expects the number of U.S. adults aged 65-plus to reach 98 million by 2060. That’s 24 percent of the population.

As we live longer, more people will experience the effects of changes in our bodies over time that result in deterioration of oral tissue and bone in later years.

  • Cells regenerating more slowly.
  • Soft tissues losing elasticity and becoming thinner.
  • Bones losing density and become weaker.

The immune system may also be less effective. This means greater vulnerability to infection and slower healing.

All these factors result in a higher risk of tooth loss in later years through three major dental concerns:

  • Gum disease.
  • Tooth decay.
  • Oral cancer.

You’re also more likely to need the help of cosmetic dentistry to refresh your smile as you get older.

Gum Disease in Older People

More than two-thirds of adults in the U.S. aged 65 or over have gum disease, medically known as periodontitis or periodontal disease. Gum disease develops when bacteria form a sticky film (plaque) on and around teeth. The resulting infection can destroy soft tissues and jawbone that support your teeth, and result in gum recession and tooth loss. Inflammation can also spread from your mouth via the bloodstream to other areas of the body, including vital organs.

Treatments for Gum Disease

The early stage of gum disease – gingivitis – may respond to antibiotics to fight infection and deep cleaning to remove plaque and calcified plaque (tartar). In more severe cases, surgery may be necessary. Early diagnosis and treatment of gum disease is crucial to increase the likelihood of a successful outcome without invasive surgical procedures.

Tooth Decay in Older People

A build-up of bacterial plaque over time can cause tooth decay as well gum disease. The acid produced by the bacteria slowly eat away at teeth, causing decay that leads to small holes (cavities). The risk of tooth decay is higher among older adults with receding gums or issues that affect manual dexterity and make it difficult to clean their teeth properly – arthritis or hand weakness or tremors, for example.

Treatments for Tooth Decay

Your dentist or prosthodontist may be able to reverse early stages of tooth decay by applying a fluoride varnish to the tooth. If you have a cavity, you’ll likely need a filling. If decay has penetrated the soft tissue at the core of a tooth (the pulp), you may need root canal treatment. Sometimes the only solution is extraction of the tooth and replacement with an artificial tooth such as a dental implant with a crown.

Oral Cancer in Older People

Oral cancer can develop in most parts of the mouth, including the gums and lips, and occasionally the throat. It’s more prevalent in people older than 45 and twice as common in men as in women. The main cause of mouth cancer is smoking and other types of tobacco use, especially when combined with excessive alcohol consumption. During the initial stage of mouth cancer there are often no noticeable symptoms. This makes it essential to get regular dental examinations incorporating oral cancer screening.

Treatments for Oral Cancer

Surgery is usually the first treatment for oral cancer. This may be followed by radiation or a combination of chemotherapy and radiation.

How to Lessen the Risk of Dental Issues with Aging

Statistics from the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research paint a bleak picture of tooth loss in older age.

  • Adults aged 65 or over have lost an average of 13 teeth.
  • More than 30 percent of people aged over 75 have lost all their teeth.

You’re less likely to develop age-related dental issues leading to tooth loss if you maintain a good standard of oral hygiene at home and get regular preventive care from your dentist.

  • Brush your teeth twice a day with a soft-bristle toothbrush and fluoride toothpaste.
  • Floss at least once a day.
  • Maintain a balanced, nutritional diet.
  • Avoid or limit sugary foods and drinks.
  • Avoid tobacco use.
  • See your dentist for regular checkups and dental cleanings.

Cosmetic Dentistry in Later Years

A range of cosmetic dental procedures are available to keep you smiling with confidence throughout middle age and beyond.

These treatments include:

  • Professional teeth whitening – a superior alternative to over-the-counter DIY teeth bleaching kits.
  • Dental veneers to enhance tooth shape, size and color.
  • Tooth bonding – a faster, less costly alternative to veneers.
  • White composite fillings – a better cosmetic option than amalgam silver fillings.
  • Dental implants – the gold standard of aesthetics in replacing missing teeth.
  • Dental crowns that enhance your smile as well as repairing and protecting a badly damaged tooth.

Age-Related Medical Conditions That May Impact Dental Health

Some medical conditions are more widespread in older people. These disorders – and some of the associated medications – can also affect dental health.

Systemic diseases that can affect oral health include:

  • Alzheimer’s disease and dementia.
  • Chronic kidney disease.
  • Diabetes.
  • Osteoarthritis.
  • Osteoporosis.
  • Dry mouth (xerostomia).

Prosthodontics and Older Adults

Preventive dentistry and treatment for oral health issues as we age is an important part of overall health and wellbeing. Many individuals in older age turn to prosthodontists for their oral health care because they’re the recognized specialists in teeth repair and replacement and cosmetic dentistry.

Plymouth prosthodontist Metropolitan Prosthodontics provides a range of treatments to resolve dental issues among our older patients.

Our restorative dental services include:

  • Dental crowns.
  • Dental bridges.
  • Dentures.
  • Dental implants.

Cosmetic dental procedures at your Plymouth prosthodontist include:

  • Dental veneers.
  • Tooth bonding.
  • White fillings.

Contact us if you’d like to find out more about managing dental issues as you age.

Financial Concerns?

We understand that many older people worry about the cost of maintaining their dental health. Medicare doesn’t cover routine dental procedures, and most Americans lose their dental coverage on retirement. Metropolitan Prosthodontics offers payment plans that allow you to spread the cost of dental care to suit your budget. We also accept major credit cards and the CareCredit healthcare card.