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Common dental problems in older people

  • Posted on- Aug 07, 2015
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Advancements in technology in the dental industry have allowed people to keep their teeth healthy, longer. These advancements have also allowed for older people to keep more of their original teeth for significantly longer. While this is exciting news, it also comes with some concerns. The longer we are able to retain our original teeth, the more potential there is for specific, age related problems to arise. This makes dental care and regular dentist visits a must for elderly people. Here are some of the most common dental problems in older people.

Tooth Decay

Older people are more vulnerable to tooth decay, possibly due to a preference for sweeter foods, less care with their oral hygiene and inability or reticence to access dental treatment. Tooth decay is largely preventable by reducing the quantity and frequency that sugar is consumed. If one eats only 5 times a day and brushes with fluoride tooth paste at least twice a day, it is hard to develop tooth decay.

Tooth Ache

Heavily filled teeth, or teeth under crowns and bridges may look sound, but the nerves in these teeth may die off. Once this happens, the dead nerve tissue may become infected and toothache can follow. The ideal treatment would be root canal treatment, or possibly extraction. If it is not possible to get to a dentist, then a combination of pain killers (ideally Nurofen) and Amoxicillin, the antibiotic of choice for most dental infections, can be taken under advice.

Broken Teeth

Decayed teeth, worn teeth and old fillings do break, often leaving sharp ends that the tongue plays with. This can result in tongue ulceration, which is very sore. Ideally, one should have a dentist smooth off the sharp piece as soon as possible. However, if this is not possible, usually within a couple of days, the tongue loses interest in the sharp object and the ulcer will heal.

Gum Related and Soft Tissue Problems

Gingivitis (bleeding gums) is present in almost all mouths and is not especially significant. Gum disease that causes bone loss, tooth loosening, or even tooth loss, does require treatment. A dental check-up is the opportunity to assess the level of gum disease. But gum diseases can be prevented by effective oral hygiene, which should include cleaning in between the teeth with bottle brushes or dental floss.

Soft Tissue Problems

It is not uncommon to see a range of lumps, white lines and patches in the mouth. Ulcers are common, but, if they have not healed within two weeks and there is no obvious cause (sharp tooth or filling), the ulcer should be investigated, first of all by a dentist. Any lump or patch in the mouth should be examined if it bleeds, changes in size, appearance or ulcerates. Mouth cancers account for over two per cent of all cancers and their incidence is increasing.

Prevention is the easiest cure. Regular dental checkups, liberal use of fluoride toothpastes and effective oral hygiene twice a day should be encouraged.


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