Patients of all ages need appropriate care to maintain optimal oral health. However, seniors have unique dental needs and face certain factors that can increase their risk for tooth decay, gum disease, and other serious oral health-related problems.
Dentist John Goodman and the team at our Kansas City, MO, office discuss the importance of comprehensive care during each exam, including dental cleanings for seniors. We will also explain how higher-risk patients can reduce their risk for oral health issues with proper maintenance.
The Link between Oral and General Health
Whole-body health and wellness are directly linked to oral health. When bacteria are present in the oral cavity, they are also present in the bloodstream and throughout the body. General health issues that can be linked to poor dental health include:
- Heart disease: Patients with gum disease are twice as likely to develop coronary artery or heart disease.
- Stroke: P. gingivalis, the bacteria linked to gum disease, has been discovered in carotid arteries. Another gum disease bacterium, Streptococcus sp, has been identified in brain blood vessels. This significantly increases the risk for stroke.
- Diabetes: Advanced gum disease prevents the body from using insulin correctly. High blood sugar can actually increase the risk for gingivitis and gum disease.
- Pneumonia: Poor dental health has been linked to respiratory issues in older patients. When bacteria are present in the mouth, droplets can be inhaled into the lungs and spread infection there.
Routine dental cleanings are essential in reducing the risk of these conditions. We routinely provide care for seniors at our Kansas City practice.
Common Oral Health Problems Facing Seniors
Dental problems can develop at any age. However, there are some issues that are more common in seniors:
- Root decay: Seniors are more prone to gum recession, which exposes the roots of the teeth. Roots are made from dentin, which is softer than enamel, making them much more susceptible to decay and damage.
- Gum disease: This chronic infection not only affects the gums, but also the underlying jawbone. Left untreated, gum disease can lead to mobility and tooth loss.
- Dry mouth: Saliva plays an important role in your oral health. It washes away food particles, plaque, and other debris and keeps the mouth healthy and lubricated. Patients with dry mouth are more susceptible to decay, gum disease, and other oral infections. Unfortunately, seniors are more prone to dry mouth due to certain medication side effects. Dry mouth can also be caused by cancer treatments, such as radiation and chemotherapy.
- Stomatitis: This condition is caused by the fungus Candida albicans and is characterized by inflammation of the gum tissue in denture patients.
Dr. Goodman and our hygienist can check for these issues during routine visits. When detected early, these problems can nearly always be addressed before they worsen.
How Often Should Senior Patients Have Their Teeth Cleaned?
There is no magic number when it comes to answering this question. Many adult patients benefit from dental cleanings every six months. However, those who are predisposed to oral health issues, such as decay, gum disease, or dry mouth, often require more frequent visits.
Many of our senior patients can successfully maintain their oral health with cleanings every three or four months. During a visit at our practice, Dr. Goodman can help determine a cleaning schedule that is right for you.
Schedule Your Dental Cleaning Today
If you would like to learn more about dental care for seniors, reach out to one of our skilled and knowledgeable team members. To schedule an appointment at our Kansas City practice, call us at (816) 842-8585 or contact us online anytime.