Age-Related Dental Health Concerns

As you grow older, your family dentist may pay particular attention to certain aspects of your dental health. Here are a few areas of concern that may be assessed.

Gum Health

The health of your gums can diminish with age. Many older people lose their teeth due to a severe gum condition called periodontitis. 

Nevertheless, periodontitis is avoidable. Gum disease is progressive. It starts as gingivitis, a relatively minor condition that causes the gums to redden, swell, and bleed.

Gingivitis can be reversed with proper oral hygiene. However, if it is not reversed, it can eventually progress to periodontitis.

Periodontitis causes the formation of spaces, which are called pockets, between the teeth and gums. The pockets become deeper as the periodontitis worsens. 

Oral bacteria start to fill the pockets and may incite an infection that can spread to the jawbone. An infection of the jawbone can prevent the bone cells from reproducing as they should, leading to bone shrinkage. As the bone of the jaw shrinks, it may not support the teeth sufficiently, leaving them loose in their sockets. Over time, the teeth may fall out.

If your dentist notices signs of periodontitis, they may treat the condition through a procedure in which the gums are pulled back and the roots of the teeth are scaled and smoothed. The sooner the condition is treated, the less likely that it will lead to tooth loss. 

Bone Health

Your dentist is also likely to review your bone health, using x-rays of your mouth. If you have lost teeth, your jawbone may start to shrink due to a lack of stimulation. Many tooth-replacement appliances, such as conventional dentures, rest at the gum line. Thus, no bite force is transferred to the jawbone to stimulate cell production. If the dentist notices bone loss, they may suggest dental implants to replace your missing teeth and maintain the stimulation needed for a healthy bone mass.

Dry Mouth

Older people often require more medication to maintain their health and treat age-related conditions. A common side-effect of prescription medicines is dry mouth.

The condition, which is also called xerostomia, occurs when too little saliva is released into the oral cavity. Saliva helps protect the teeth from decay by diluting and neutralizing oral acids. The acids, which are released by bacteria that live in the mouth, are formed as byproducts when the microbes digest their food.

To have your teeth and gums assessed, schedule a consultation with a family dentist in your local area.