Older adults often require extra medical and dental care. As we age, many dental issues become more prevalent including dry mouth (xerostomia), root and coronal caries, gum disease, sleep apnea, and teeth loss requiring dentures or implants. The specialized care for age-related dental problems is referred to as geriatric dentistry.
In the USA, it’s estimated that there will be 74 million persons over the age of 65 by 2030, up from 56 million in 2020. On average, people above the age of 65 years are expected to report one or more chronic medical conditions that require consideration before initiating any dental treatment.
Common Dental Problems in Seniors
Dry mouth, or xerostomia, is a condition in which the salivary glands don’t produce sufficient saliva to keep your mouth wet. Dry mouth is more common among older adults than any other age group.
Treatment options depend on the cause of your dry mouth. Your dentist may recommend:
- Change medication, if your dentist believes medication is the cause.
- Drinking lots of water
- Over-the-counter products to moisturize your mouth such as:
- MI Paste/MI Paste Plus
- Biotène Dry Mouth Oral Rinse/Moisturizing Spray/Oral Gel
- Xlear Spry
- Prescription medications that stimulate saliva production
Tooth Decay/Root Decay
Among age groups, children and seniors are the two groups with the highest rate of tooth decay. Reasons why seniors are more prone to dental cavities include lack of fluoride, arthritis, gum disease (over 95% of seniors of receding gum), dry mouth, diet, cognitive impairment.
Things you can do to prevent tooth decay:
- Maintain the proper daily oral care
- Brush well along the gum line
- Brush gently
- Regular check-ups with your dentist
Products that can help with brushing:
- 3-sided toothbrush
- Soft bristle toothbrush
- WaterPik water flosser
The risk of developing gum disease (or gingivitis) grows higher as we age, due to age-related changes in the body (build-up of bacteria, diet, enamel weakening). Left untreated, gingivitis may lead to periodontitis, a more serious form of gum disease.
You can help prevent gum disease by brushing twice a day, cleaning once a day between teeth with floss, and following a good dental hygiene routine.
Older adults are more susceptible to worn enamel, gum problems, and tooth decay – problems that can make teeth more sensitive.
Over-the-counter products that may help with sensitivity include:
- Sensodyne Rapid Relief Sensitive Toothpaste
- GC MI Paste tooth creme
- Fluoride varnish
- Desensitizing agent
While teeth grinding (bruxism) is not more common in seniors, it can impact older adults more because many of the effects of teeth grinding build up over time.
Your dentist can create a custom-fit mouthguard (or night guard) for you to wear at night to keep your teeth separated and prevent damage from clenching and grinding.
Sleep Apnea is a breathing disorder that can cause pauses in breathing during sleep and can lead to restless nights and snoring.
Your dentist may recommend a custom-fit oral appliance that is worn while you sleep (similar to an orthodontic retainer). It works by preventing the airway from collapsing by supporting the jaw in a forward position. Oral appliance therapy is an effective treatment for obstructive sleep apnea and snoring.
Dentures are a popular tooth replacement option for seniors for many reasons: they look natural, are easy to maintain, non-invasive, more affordable, and require fewer visits to the dentist.
To care for removable dentures:
- Remove dentures after eating and carefully rinse them with water.
- Use a soft toothbrush to clean your mouth after you have taken out your dentures.
- Brush your dentures at least daily.
- Soak your dentures overnight in a mild denture cleaning solution.
- Before putting your dentures back in your mouth in the morning, give the dentures a good clean and a rinse.
- Avoid abrasive cleaning materials, stiff-bristled brushes, whitening toothpaste, bleach-containing products, and hot water.
- Get regular checkups.
Products that can help with maintaining dentures:
Dental implants are an effective tooth replacement option alongside bridges and dentures. Even though implants are not susceptible to decay caused by bacteria like natural teeth, they are still susceptible to wear and tear, and failure due to gum disease. It is essential to maintain a good daily routine which should include brushing/flossing at least twice a day and after meals.
Home Care Tools
Interdental Cleaning Tools/Proxabrush
Interdental cleaning tools, such as GUM Proxabrush, are very good for cleaning in between the teeth and are easier to use for some people than floss.
Electric toothbrushes have been shown to be more effective in plaque removal than manual brushing in studies. The most popular electric toothbrush brands are Philips Sonicare and Oral-B.
Superfloss and floss threaders are tools that make it easier to remove plaque and food debris from hard-to-reach places.
Water flosser or oral irrigator that sprays water to remove food particles from your teeth.
Dental Innovations of Virginia’s Three Care Options
We at Dental Innovations of Virginia provide three different options for you to get care. Your dentist will assess you and discuss options with you prior to treatment.
(1) DIVA Lansdowne Office
Located in Lansdowne’s Riverside Office Park (19490 Sandridge Way Suite 160, Lansdowne, VA 20176), our office provides a warm, welcoming, and effective dental experience that will leave you with the brightest smiles. Our Lansdowne office is only a short drive from Leesburg, Lansdowne, Ashburn, east Loudoun County.
(2) DIVA Mobile Clinic: 2 Fully Equipped Operatories, Clinic On Wheel
Our DIVA Mobile Clinic on Wheels service is an ideal and convenient option for seniors living in long-term care facilities. Our state-of-the-art mobile dental office on wheels provides many services including x-rays, treatments for pain/toothache/broken tooth/broken dentures/partials/implants/gum swelling/bleeding/abscesses, dislodged crowns/temporaries, filling, routing exam, and cleaning.
DIVA Mobile is available in the wider Northern Virginia/NOVA/Washington Metro & surrounding areas. Please call us if you are interested in our mobile service or have more questions.
(3) DIVA Home Visit: Treatment in the Comfort of Your Home
We offer home visits to patients who are not able to travel to a dental office or prefer to receive treatments in the comfort of their own home. With the state-of-the-art portable equipment (fully reclining wheelchair, hand-held x-ray unit, and dental engine), you can receive oral care in your bed, couch, or wheelchair.
About Dental Innovations of Virginia
Dental Innovations of Virginia provides comprehensive dental services, and preventive dentistry for the whole family. In addition to our Lansdowne office serving the Leesburg, Lansdowne, Ashburn, Loudoun County areas, we also come to you via our DIVA Mobile Clinic service for patients living in long-term care facilities, and our DIVA Home Visit service for patients who prefer to receive treatments in the comfort of their own home.
Dr. Joon Coe, Dr. Julie Coe, and the rest of the DIVA team look forward to helping you achieve a brighter smile and the highest possible dental health. We’re located at 19490 Sandridge Way, Suite 160, Lansdowne, VA 20176. We’re open Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Contact us to schedule an appointment or ask us a question.