4 Oral Health Problems Among Older Adults

4 Oral Health Problems Among Older Adults

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A set of teeth is among the strongest natural materials on earth, and human teeth are no exception. Teeth are developed to chew food finely, so the body can digest it better and efficiently turn it into energy. However, as humans age, the strength of the teeth decreases. As such, oral health problems among older adults manifest.

While oral health problems can be easily resolved nowadays with the use of modern techniques, it becomes more complicated as we age. Given this, practicing good oral health care during our younger days will help greatly as we enter our senior years.

Common Oral Health Problems in Elderly People

Oral health problems among the elderly are often a result of the lifestyle choices made during the more youthful years. If they are an avid smoker, a drinker, or do not practice proper hygiene, it is to be expected that their oral health will not be in pristine condition. Let us take a look at some of the common oral health problems among the elderly.

1. Periodontitis

This disease is among the worst cases of oral health problems in the elderly. Periodontitis happens when the accumulated bacteria in the gums multiply rapidly, causing infections and complications. This condition directly affects the bones connected to the teeth and can lead to tooth loss.

In its early stage, periodontitis manifests itself as gingivitis, often characterized by swollen, red, or bleeding gums. This disease is also seen among the youth. However, periodontitis increases as we age and is more common among men than women. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that 70.1% of adults aged 65 years and older have periodontitis.

If there is an elderly in your household, you might want to be wary of the following symptoms associated with periodontitis.

  • Bad breath or bad taste that lingers
  • Swollen, red, or bleeding gums
  • Loose or sensitive teeth
  • Painful chewing
  • New spaces between teeth
  • Receding gums
  • Changes in how teeth fit when biting

2. Cavities

When one thinks of cavities, it is quite usual to assume that it frequently happens to children who have high sugar consumption. While this is true to some extent, cavities are one of the oral health problems among the elderly. This is likely because of the lack of moisture inside the mouth.

Dry mouth and issues in oral health for seniors are often an effect of medications. When the mouth gets dry, this gives the bacteria inside an opportunity to multiply. Ensure that the mouth stays moist by keeping yourself hydrated. It is also important to consult with a doctor regarding the dosage of medication to make the necessary adjustments to avoid further oral problems.

If possible, use a humidifier to keep an elderly’s room properly moisturized.

3. Mouth Cancer

A big percentage of people suffering from oral cancer in the United States are elderly. In a study done by the American Cancer Society, the average age of people inflicted with this type of cancer is 63.

Regular visits to the dentist can help in identifying symptoms and taking necessary oral health precautions to minimize the chances of having mouth cancer. There are a handful of reasons why people reach the extremes and get infected with mouth cancer.

Poor Dental Care

who do not practice proper dental hygiene are the most vulnerable. The bacterial infestation in the mouth can accumulate and cause a lot of complications, one of which is mouth cancer. Practice the correct dental care for seniors.

Tobacco Use

The awful truth is that cigarettes, smokeless tobacco, and other types of tobacco are the culprits of oral cancer, gum disease, and other oral health problems. Excessive usage of tobacco is harmful to our bodies and is highly fatal.

As CDC reports, over 40% of adults aged 20 to 64 years old who smoke cigarettes have untreated tooth decay. In fact, using smokeless tobacco is related to an increased risk of developing oral cancer and causes of white or gray areas in the mouth. Be mindful of tobacco use, especially regarding oral health for seniors.


If you have a history of mouth cancer in the family, caution should be observed because there will be a high chance that an elderly member of the family may also get the disease. Check on your family members as well if anyone is exhibiting the first signs of an unhealthy mouth. Regular checkups to the dentist are highly suggested to check on the oral health for seniors. Early detection can identify preexisting conditions in the mouth and prevent further complications.

4. Tooth Loss

According to the CDC, nearly 1 in every 5 adults, who are 65 years old or older, have completely lost their teeth. Missing teeth and wearing dentures affect the body’s overall nutrition intake because those who have such conditions prefer soft food to fruits and vegetables that the body needs.

Losing teeth is something that often happens as we age. It can be due to a variety of reasons: accidents, extraction, or disease.

As our bodies age, our organs start to function less effectively– such is the case for the enamel production in the mouth. Paired with poor dental hygiene or an imbalanced diet, this may cause complications in an elderly person’s oral health, including tooth loss.

Aggressive brushing can hurt the gum line, too. Too much force from brushing the teeth can inflame the gums and cause the gums to recede.

Teeth grinding places pressure on the gums. The more it happens, especially to people who have a habit of grinding their teeth, the more the gums become irritated, encouraging recession.

How to Avoid Oral Health Problems in Elderly People

As an old saying goes: “prevention is better than cure.” Proper oral hygiene is highly encouraged for seniors. Here are some effective ways to avoid oral health problems in elderly people:

1. Brush at least twice a day.

Brushing correctly is the best option for maintaining a healthy mouth. Practice correct brushing techniques and use the correct oral hygiene products. It will also help if you brush for 2 minutes straight after every meal to make sure that each tooth is cleaned and coated by protective minerals like fluoride from the toothpaste.

2. Make flossing a habit.

People tend to overlook flossing. However, flossing is as important as brushing. Flossing can ensure that food particles that are stuck in the gum line and along teeth crevices are removed. This will inhibit bacteria from incubating and from eating the enamel off the teeth.

3. Cut back on tobacco.

As previously mentioned, heavy tobacco usage encourages plaque buildup. Quitting the consumption of cigarettes and tobacco can be a challenging feat but will be largely beneficial to the body.

4. Observe a healthy diet.

Cutting back on sweets or sugar-rich food, in general, will help maintain the pristine condition of the teeth. Sugar is known to destroy the enamel of teeth, allowing bacteria to flourish and destroy the teeth. Acidic foods and beverages should be avoided as well as they can easily disintegrate the enamel and deteriorate the teeth.

5. Regularly clean their dentures.

If you are caring for an elderly who uses dentures, make sure that their dentures are regularly cleaned as they can be a breeding ground for bacteria that can cause oral health problems. Use the appropriate cleaning materials for dentures and always check if they are still in good condition. Check with the elderly’s dentist if there are repairs or adjustments needed.

6. Visit the dentist regularly.

A monthly dental check-up is necessary for the elderly to maintain a good set of teeth and avoid oral health problems. The dentist can give an overview of their oral health, do the necessary cleaning, and remove the early signs of cavities and tooth decay. The dentist can also give good advice on how to keep their teeth in good condition.

Century Dental Can Help In Preventing Oral Health Problems In Elderly

Oral health for seniors is now easy with Century Dental, your dentist in South Pasadena, FL. Resident dentists at Century Dental can perform general dentistry, periodontal treatments, preventive care, implant dentistry, teeth whitening, emergency dental care, and oral cancer screening, to name a few.

Avoid oral health problems and help your teeth age gracefully. Experience holistic dentistry and professional dental help by visiting Century Dental. Call us now!

Picture of Dr. Abdullah M. Allawnha

Dr. Abdullah M. Allawnha

Dr. Allawnha, born in New Orleans and raised in Windsor, Canada, earned a Bachelor of Science in Nursing from the University of Windsor. He worked as an ER nurse in Detroit, Michigan, before moving to Morgantown, West Virginia, to become a dentist. He completed his Doctorate of Dental Surgery (DDS) degree from West Virginia University School of Dentistry while still working as a nurse until he graduated.

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