Aging and Dental health
Irrespective of race, religion, social status, and financial accountability, some things in life are, sadly inevitable. The most inevitable thing is death. And for some, hopefully, all of us, age is too. Yes, I said hopefully because we all want to grow old, right? So here and now, we are going to discuss the effect of age on our dentition.
EFFECTS OF AGING ON THE MOUTH
With aging, the taste buds become less sensitive, that is, they find it difficult to taste things or they taste things wrongly. Older people may find their food tastes bland so, for more taste, they may add abundant seasonings (particularly salt, which is harmful for some people) or they may desire very hot foods, which may burn the gums.
A modest decrease in saliva production occurs with age and can be decreased further by some drugs. The decrease in saliva causes dry mouth (xerostomia). The gums may get thinner and begin to recede. Xerostomia and receding gums increase the likelihood of cavities. Some experts also believe that xerostomia may make the lining of the oesophagus more susceptible to injury.
Some old people may be lucky and retain their teeth, especially people who do not develop cavities or periodontal disease, despite xerostomia and receding gums. Some, however, may lose some or all of their teeth and need partial or full dentures. We use the teeth to chew food and therefore teeth loss is the major reason why old people do not chew as well. Due to this, they may not consume enough nutrients needed in the body. When older people lose their teeth, the jaw bones that hold the teeth in place waste away (called senile atrophy).
As people age, the teeth becomes worn, the muscles that are used for chewing becomes weak and this makes chewing tiresome. The tooth is more vulnerable to damage and decay as the tooth enamel is most likely to wear away due to aging.
However, the major cause of tooth loss is periodontal disease. People with poor oral hygiene, people who smoke and people with particular disorders such as diabetes mellitus, leukaemia, AIDS, or poor nutrition are more vulnerable to periodontal disease. . Dental infections caused by bacteria can also lead to pockets of pus (abscesses) in the brain, cavernous sinus thrombosis, and unexplained fevers.
Untreated periodontal disease can worsen chronic health conditions such as heart disease, arthritis and diabetes. But even so, taking care of our teeth as we grow older can prove to be more challenging due to stress or tiredness or some form of disease. Arthritis, for example, can make brushing and flossing difficult. Sometimes using a power (electric) toothbrush, with its larger handle, is easier. Or you can place a tennis ball or bike handle grip on a regular toothbrush to make it more comfortable to hold. Pre-loaded floss holders and water irrigation devices sold in drugstores, can likewise be very helpful.
This is why the grown children or wards of these older adults should take time to seeing to their parents or guardians needs in this crucial area at this particular time.
It is not a must or necessary for us to lose our teeth as we age because, as mentioned earlier, with proper oral hygiene, it has been proven that our teeth could last as long as we do.
It also doesn’t hurt that from a young age we start taking care of our teeth now so as to reduce, or better still prevent, complications when we are old.