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Common Dental Concerns for Individuals Over 60

Cavities. Dry mouth. Swollen gums. Tooth loss.

It seems like, as you age, you’re seeing more and more of these symptoms, even though you haven’t changed your oral hygiene routine since you were 10! What gives?

Cavities and Dry Mouth

Unfortunately, with age comes a whole new slew of dental concerns you either thought you’d outgrown, or didn’t even know existed! Take cavities for instance—you haven’t had one in years! But all of a sudden, they’re popping up like you’re a kid who snuck too much candy on Halloween. As we get older, we enter our second round of cavity prone years, making us more susceptible to tooth decay than we have been in 50+ years.

Another thing the 60 and older crowd has to look forward to is dry mouth. Dry mouth is NOT a normal part of aging, but is rather a side effect of more than 500 medications—including those for allergies, asthma, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, pain, anxiety, depression, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. Or, in other words, dry mouth is a side effect of just about every medication physicians prescribe older patients. And unfortunately, dry mouth also increases your risk for cavities, as it dries up the saliva, which helps wash away bad acids and bacteria. If you’re on any medications, talk to your dentist, as they can help you combat dry mouth and all of its nasty side effects.

Gum Disease

A lot of older people get gum disease, or periodontal disease, which is caused by the bacteria in plaque. One of the reasons for this is because gum disease is often a very painless condition that goes unnoticed until the advanced stages. If it’s allowed to progress, gum disease can become very serious, with the gums pulling away from the teeth, forming deep pockets where food particles can collect and eventually resulting in tooth lost.

The good news is though that periodontal disease doesn’t have to be a typical part of aging. With good oral hygiene, and with regular visits to the dentist, gum disease can be detected early on, when it’s still treatable, or even prevented entirely.

Mouth Cancer

According to the American Cancer Society, there are approximately 35,000 cases of mouth cancer each year. This includes cancers of the throat and tongue. The average age of most people diagnosed is 62. Oral cancer has a very low survival rate (at 57%) when detected in the late stages. However, the survival rate is very good (83%) when detected in the early stages. Unfortunately, oral cancer in the early stages cannot be detected by the naked eye, and is usually only detected when the searcher knows what they’re looking for. That is why it is so important to visit your dentist regularly, even if you think all is healthy in your mouth. At our office, we make oral cancer screenings a part of every exam. If your dentist doesn’t, ask them to do a screening on you.

Some symptoms to look for on your own include: open sores, white or reddish patches, and changes in the lips, tongue and lining of the mouth that last for more than two weeks.

If you’re in your 60s and notice any of the signs or symptoms we talked about in this blog post, schedule an appointment with us today. It can’t hurt, as we’ll either fix what is wrong or give you peace of mind that all is as it should be! Call our office at 651-429-3348, or visit http://www.lakeshorefamilydentist.com/contact.html to schedule an initial consultation with us today.

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