Seniors face a number of obstacles that prevent adequate oral health care. Barriers can include dentists closing their practices, seniors moving away from their dentists, and the false perception that seniors do not require professional dental care. With many of today's seniors having all or most of their own teeth, regular dental care is an important part of health promotion and disease prevention. Teeth often get cavities around the necks of the crown - this is where the crown and root meet at the gums. This area can become sensitive with age and seniors tend to brush these areas less regularly due to the discomfort. It is best to discuss desensitization methods with a dentist.
If a sticky white substance called plaque is left in these areas due to a lack of cleaning, decay may begin around the neck of the tooth. Plaque build-up and decay can be accelerated by a dry mouth, certain kinds of medication, and decreased dexterity or flexibility which hinder an individual's ability to clean their teeth thoroughly. The resulting cavities are called root caries. Root caries can be treated quickly and effectively when detected early by a dentist. It is best to see a dentist regularly in order to prevent the formation of root caries and other types of cavities before decay begins."
For seniors with partial dentures root caries can occur where the clasps (wires) on the denture clasp the tooth to stabilize the denture. These are important areas to keep especially clean.
It is important to remember that dentures should fit properly and not cause discomfort. They need to be checked regularly to make sure they fit well, are not rubbing the gums or dislodging while speaking, smiling, eating and talking. If this happens, you should see a dentist for an adjustment, reline or in some cases for new dentures.
Dentures like our own teeth need to be cleaned well at least once a day. They need to be taken out at night and put into a glass of water. This rests your mouth and gums, just like taking of your shoes before you go to bed, and allows the mouth to relax.
Where to get help for dental problems:
Find a senior's friendly dentist. You want to establish an ongoing relationship with someone who will look after your oral health needs for the rest of your life. You should attend a dentist in your community, who has easy access with no or few stairs. Some dentists specialize in looking after seniors. If you think you should see a special dentist contact your health department dental staff who will be able to tell you which dentists have easy access, accept and welcome seniors and which are specialists.
Having a sore mouth or putting up with discomfort in your mouth is not part of getting older. We all deserve healthy teeth and gums free from pain. Remember poor oral health can get you down. It will
- Limit your social life, eating out with friends, smiling and chatting comfortably.
- Stop you singing, with friends, in the choir
- Turn your diet into "tea and toast"
- Make you unhappy
How to Care for Resident's Teeth
Resources for Providing Mouth Care