It’s a simple fact that as people get older, they need to be more mindful of their oral health. Hormone levels change over time and this has a direct impact on the health of the mouth. In addition, years of normal wear and tear can lead to a loss of enamel, and teeth can become brittle. This makes a healthy regime of oral health for older adults all the more important.
Hormonal changes in both males and females can certainly have an impact on teeth as we age. While menopause is a common contributing factor, there are also hormonal changes in men that can have a real impact on oral health. Dry mouth is a condition that affects a lot of older people and gums usually show some signs of receding. There can also be an impact from medication that people start to take as they age.
It’s also common for the older generation to have experienced a very different type of dentistry to what’s offered today. Large amalgam fillings that have served well for years — or even decades — will often lead to cracks developing in teeth. The problem is that the old amalgam fillings don’t actually bond to the tooth. For years, these teeth have pressure applied to them from eating and the filling acts like a wedge. Invariably this leads to cracks in the tooth structure around the old filling. A big part of a dentist’s job with older clients is to prevent these teeth from breaking.
It’s important for older people to realise that the type of dental care they received in the past is nothing like today’s best practice. There are also cases of old dental work reaching their use-by date. It might be a root canal that was done years ago finally starting to fail. A crown could be required to replace the old work.
The first indicator that something is wrong is usually when the client feels pain or discomfort. Unfortunately, by the time you feel any pain, it can mean that there is quite extensive work that needs to be done.
For example, when a tooth starts cracking around an amalgam filling, you may not feel anything at first. But as the cracks expand and contract, fluid can enter and reach the nerve of the tooth. That’s the point when you feel pain but it’s also long past the point when the problem could have been corrected.
It doesn’t mean there’s no problems just because your teeth don’t hurt. Waiting too long means the dental procedures are more invasive and it’s invariably more expensive.
So, when it comes to oral health for older adults, it’s very sensible to have frequent dental check-ups. Your dentist is in a position to act quickly on any issues that arise—whether you’re feeling pain or not. Just as most older people have an annual health check with their GP, the same people should have a six-monthly check-up with their dentist.
Ultimately, it will keep your teeth, gums and mouth healthy while minimising any costs involved. It truly is a win/win situation.
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