We have a stereotypical image in our head of what seniors’ teeth look like: Partially or fully toothless mouths, sometimes adorned with dentures that slip out of the mouth with comedic timing, or sit on the bedside table in their glass of water.
But this stereotype doesn’t have to be real. With proper oral hygiene habits and good dental care, you can keep your teeth for your whole life. And if you do lose teeth for any reason, cosmetic dentistry is equipped with attractive and effective replacements. There’s no reason you shouldn’t have beautiful teeth for the rest of your life!
Oral Hygiene for Seniors
Just like anyone else, seniors should ensure that they are performing good basic oral hygiene, like brushing twice a day with a fluoride toothpaste, flossing daily, and scheduling regular checkups with a dentist. In fact, seniors’ teeth are more susceptible to decay, so these things become even more important!
The average person over the age of 65 receives a whopping 27 new prescriptions per year. Hundreds of those medications come with the extremely common side effect of dry mouth. Dry mouth, which is exactly what it sounds like, may seem like a relatively harmless side effect. But one of the purposes of saliva is to protect your teeth. It washes bacteria and grime off of teeth and regulates the pH in your mouth. Without adequate saliva, teeth are significantly more susceptible to decay. If you have dry mouth, your dentist can help.
Aging also comes with increased sensitivity as your gums naturally recede to expose parts of your teeth that may not be protected by enamel. This can make seniors particularly sensitive to hot and cold foods and drinks. A toothpaste specially designed for sensitive teeth can help this, but you may also want to discuss it with your dentist — it could be a sign of a tooth weakened by decay or a chip or crack.
Seniors are also more susceptible to gum disease, which is the leading cause of tooth loss. Gum disease, like cavities, is best prevented with brushing and flossing. If you have dexterity problems and struggle to hold or use a toothbrush or floss, your dentist can help you find alternatives. An electric toothbrush is a great tool to keep teeth clean without the physical stress of repetitive motions like brushing.
Tooth Loss Doesn’t Have to be Permanent
Even with excellent oral hygiene, people still lose teeth. Luckily, that tooth loss doesn’t have to be permanent.
If just one or two teeth are missing, dental implants may be your best option. Implants are placed directly into your jawbone, just where your normal tooth root would be. These realistic-looking tooth replacements work exactly like your normal teeth, so you don’t have to change your diet or routines. Plus, in most cases, they’ll last you for the rest of your life!
If you’ve lost more than a few teeth, denture may be the better solution. Partial dentures can replace a few teeth in a specific area, braced on nearby teeth, and can be less expensive than the more permanent choice of implants. If you need to replace an entire arch of teeth, full dentures are the easiest way to get functional, beautiful teeth back. Implant dentures offer a more functional alternative, giving you the full function of your teeth back.