According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Alzheimer's has become the sixth leading cause of death in the nation. It is a progressive and fatal disease. Alzheimer's is considered to be the most common form of dementia. As the population ages, the instances of Alzheimer's increase. This leaves more families trying to cope with this disease.
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Proper senior dental care becomes more of an issue as you age. There is a widely believed myth that as we age tooth loss is inevitable, this is just not true! Proper oral care will keep us smiling well into those golden years. If you take care of your teeth they can and will last you a lifetime.
As we age we do need more specialized dental care. It is important to know what to look for. Some of the common dental issues affecting seniors are:
1. Gum (periodontal) disease. Gum disease is an infection of the gum tissue that supports the teeth and is the leading cause of tooth loss in adults with an even greater impact on proper senior dental care . Most adults show some signs of gum disease.
Gingivitis. Gingivitis is an early stage of gum disease that is reversible with good oral hygiene and professional treatment. Gingivitis is caused by the bacteria found in plaque. Symptoms of gingivitis include red, swollen gums and possible bleeding when you brush. If you have any of these symptoms, see a dentist at once. If left untreated, gingivitis can advance into periodontitis.
Periodontitis. Periodontitis, a more severe form of gum disease, affects more than half of 65- to 74-year-olds. With this condition, bacterial infection causes your gums and the bone supporting the teeth to break down. Your gums may begin to recede, pulling back from the teeth. In the worst cases, the bone supporting the teeth is destroyed and, if untreated, can lead to tooth loss.
2. Root caries (decay). As we age, gums may recede due to the damage caused by brushing too hard or gum disease. Receding gums cause the exposure of the root surfaces of teeth and negatively impact proper senior dental care . Root surfaces are softer and more porous and therefore more susceptible to decay than the tooth crown.
3. Oral cancer. Oral cancer most often occurs in people over 40 years of age. See a dentist immediately if you notice any red or white patches on your gums, tongue or other oral tissues, and watch for sores that fail to heal within two weeks. Unfortunately, oral cancer is often difficult to detect in its early stages, when it can be cured more easily. Your dentist should perform a head and neck exam to screen for signs of cancer at your regular checkups.
4. Dry mouth. Many seniors take medications that can cause changes to the oral tissues. Many common medications cause a decrease in saliva, leading to dry mouth. Since saliva plays a major role in preventing tooth decay by rinsing away bacteria and food particles and by neutralizing harmful acids, you should talk to your dentist about ways to treat dry mouth.
5. Difficulty brushing and flossing. If you have arthritis, you may find it difficult to brush and floss. Ask your dentist for ways to overcome this problem. Certain dental products are designed to make oral care more comfortable. You may want to try strapping the toothbrush to a larger object, such as a ball, to make the brush more comfortable to handle. Electric toothbrushes do a good job of removing plaque and can help by doing some of the work for you. Tools to help make flossing easier are available in most drug stores.
6. Limited dentist access. Some seniors have less access to dental services because of lack of transportation, medical conditions or limited mobility. Family members or caregivers can play an important role in helping to schedule regular dental visits for homebound seniors or those in nursing homes. Seniors planning to enter a nursing home or assisted living facility should inquire about the facility’s dental care service.