As our loved ones age, their health needs change—and this includes dental care. You can help ensure your elderly loved ones remain healthy, comfortable, and confident with their smiles. We’ll explore the common dental issues senior citizens experience, the senior dental care services offered by geriatric dentists, and some ways you can help your senior loved one maintain good dental health.

Common Dental Issues Elderly Patients Experience

Elderly patients often experience a variety of dental problems, many of which are more prevalent as we age, either due to illness, certain medications, or simply the passage of time. Here are some common oral health issues the elderly may experience.

Gum Disease

As people age, manual dexterity can decrease due to conditions such as arthritis, making it harder to effectively brush and floss. This can result in plaque buildup that can eventually lead to gum disease. Patients who are unable to drive may also be less likely to maintain preventive care and regular dental checkups. 

Our gums naturally recede with age, exposing more of the tooth’s root surface. This area is not covered by hard enamel and is more susceptible to decay and sensitivity, which also increases the risk for gum disease and tooth loss.

Tooth Decay

Tooth decay can affect anyone regardless of age, but the risk increases with age, particularly around the root areas of the teeth due to receding gums. Over many years, the enamel covering the teeth can wear down, which can make teeth more susceptible to decay. Also, older fillings and other dental work can weaken or fracture, leaving spaces where bacteria can thrive and cause decay.

Dry Mouth

Aging itself isn’t a cause of dry mouth, but it’s a side effect of many medications that seniors commonly take. Dry mouth is a common side effect of many medications that seniors may take for chronic illnesses. This includes drugs for high blood pressure, heart disease, Parkinson’s, and depression, among others. Diabetes, stroke, Alzheimer’s disease, and yeast infections in the mouth can also contribute to this condition.

Oral Cancer

The risk of oral cancer increases with age. Early detection through regular oral exams is crucial to successful treatment.

Geriatric Dentistry Services

Geriatric dentistry specializes in caring for the oral health of older adults, addressing their unique needs and complications. At Crossroads Dental Arts, we offer a wide range of dental procedures for seniors.

Regular Cleanings and Examinations

Routine dental visits are essential at every stage of life, but they become even more critical as we age. These appointments generally include a professional cleaning and a comprehensive examination of the teeth, gums, and mouth. Cleanings help remove plaque and tartar that regular brushing and flossing might miss, preventing gum disease and tooth decay.

Restorative Dental Treatments

  • Root Canal Therapy: This treatment can save a natural tooth with a diseased or inflamed pulp, a common issue in elderly patients due to long-term wear and tear or tooth decay.
  • Periodontal Therapy: This is essential for managing gum disease, which is quite prevalent among seniors. It may involve deep cleanings, medication, or even surgery in severe cases.
  • Tooth Extractions: Sometimes, due to untreated tooth decay, damage, or disease, a tooth may need to be removed to preserve overall oral health.
  • Prosthetic Services: Tooth loss is common among elderly patients. Geriatric dentists can provide dentures, bridges, or dental implants for seniors to replace missing teeth, restoring function and appearance.

Oral Cancer Screenings

As the risk of oral cancer increases with age, regular screenings become a vital part of dental visits for seniors. During these screenings, the dentist will check for any signs of oral cancer, such as sores, discolored tissues, or lumps in the mouth. Early detection significantly increases the chances of successful treatment and survival.

Financing Senior Dental Care

Most dental insurance plans are provided by employers, so seniors who are no longer working may not have dental benefits. However, there are numerous options available to ensure that your loved ones get the necessary dental care they need.

  • Medicaid: Medicaid is a joint federal and state program that provides health coverage to people with low income. Dental coverage under Medicaid can vary significantly from state to state.
  • Private Dental Insurance: Some seniors might benefit from buying a private dental plan. A variety of plans exist, from those covering only basic preventative care to comprehensive plans covering major procedures.
  • Membership Plans: Crossroads Dental Arts offers dental membership plans to help patients who cannot afford the dental services they need. All family members are eligible with no deductibles, no yearly maximum, and no pre-existing conditions.
  • Payment Plans and Financing: We also offer payment plans and financing options like Care Credit, particularly for more expensive procedures.

Helping Your Elderly Loved One Maintain Good Dental Health

Knowing how to assist your elderly loved one in maintaining their dental health can make a significant difference in their quality of life. Here are some tips that you can use to help your loved one maintain healthy teeth.

  • Encourage Regular Dental Exams: Ensure your loved one visits the dentist at least twice a year or as recommended by their dental professional.
  • Promote Proper Oral Hygiene: Regular brushing with fluoride toothpaste, flossing, and using an antibacterial mouthwash should be a part of your loved one’s daily routine.
  • Stay Hydrated: Help them keep dry mouth at bay by encouraging them to drink plenty of water and use a saliva substitute if necessary.
  • Encourage a Healthy Diet: A well-balanced diet rich in fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, and low-fat dairy products can help prevent tooth decay and gum disease.

Contact Crossroads Dental Arts for Geriatric Dental Care in Owings Mills, MD

Don’t wait until a minor issue becomes a significant problem. Take control of your loved one’s dental health today by contacting Crossroads Dental Arts for geriatric dental care. We can work together to keep those beautiful smiles healthy for a lifetime. Contact us today to schedule an appointment or to learn more about our services.