Aging and Dental Health

As people age, they face new health and lifestyle challenges that may take priority over their dental health. It is critical for senior citizens to continue to see a dentist for cleanings, to check for gum disease and to address any concerns they have so they can live a healthier life.

Is tooth loss inevitable, or is it possible to have healthy teeth your whole life?

Dr. John Vitale: No, tooth loss is not inevitable. Care of one’s teeth, along with constant dental exams and treatment, will ensure good, long-lasting teeth.

How common is periodontitis in seniors?

Dr. John Vitale: About 10% of seniors, age 65 or older, have periodontal disease.

Many older people suffer from arthritis. Do you see this affecting the quality of their brushing and flossing?

Dr. John Vitale: Yes, it can, but there are solutions for that. Number one, using an electric toothbrush. Number two, using a Waterpik. These all enable people to keep their mouths clean with less effort than normally brushing.

For people with dentures and removable devices, what challenges do they face as they age?

Dr. John Vitale: Well, there’s always an adjustment period with dentures and partials. Obviously, you should schedule an appointment for an adjustment. Drink shakes to ensure your nutritional intake. Pay attention to your body weight, very important because just as we gain and lose weight during the course of our lifetime, if we have dentures in our mouths, you lose and gain weight in your mouth, also, and so it could eventually cause dentures to become ill-fitting. And visit your dentist regularly.

We know regular dental visits are important, but for seniors, getting to the dentist twice a year may be a challenge. Do older adults still need to see the dentist twice a year for check-ups, and what is the norm?

Dr. John Vitale: The norm is twice a year. Old, young, or indifferent, I mean, you really have to go to the dentist and take care of your teeth. Granted, it is more difficult sometimes to get to the dentist, but having somebody, a sibling, or a child, or a relative, or friend drive one to the dentist, or even a dentist coming to your home if absolutely necessarily, ensures that you can get good quality care.

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