Geriatric dentistry (dentistry for seniors) is a complex science with a healthy dose of art thrown in. The work of a dentist revolves around achieving optimal oral health for each patient. This requires the dentist to be skilled in delivering a wide range of diagnostic, preventative, restorative, surgical and cosmetic services. With the increase of the senior population and with better education and concern by this age group for their overall medical and dental health, seniors are retaining more of their teeth. Studies show that approximately 50% of people 55 years or older have at least 23 of their 32 natural teeth remaining.
The American Dental Association (ADA) and Oral-B Lifetime of Healthy Oral Care survey* also found the following statistics:
- 70% of seniors that were surveyed reported that they had a regular dental checkup at least once per year.
- Seniors believed that healthcare is dramatically improving with every generation.
- 95% of seniors believe that healthy teeth and gums are very important to their overall health.
Certain conditions can occur in seniors that would not normally be found in younger individuals and that can affect the health of their teeth, as well as their overall physical well being. The following conditions that may be of concern and which should be evaluated by a dentist are:
Dry Mouth (Xerostomia)
A condition common to the elderly whereby saliva flow is decreased. The causes can include certain medical conditions, certain medications such as antihistamines, pain relievers and decongestants, among others. Other
causes can be ill fitting dental appliances such as full or partial dentures. If a person allows this continued dry mouth condition to persist, there is an increase in the level of dental decay due to the increased level of bacterial
colonies and plaque accumulations. The reason for this is that saliva has a natural bathing effect on teeth that helps decrease the level of bacteria from forming. There is also a greater risk for periodontal disease
due to the decreased level of saliva. Patients are urged to see their dentist and/or physician to evaluate this condition. Certain products are available that can help correct this condition such as artificial saliva replacement
drops, oral rinses such as Biotene mouthrinse and Oral Balance a moisturizing oral rinse. Sugarless lemon drops have also been found to be an excellent saliva stimulant that can help increase saliva flow.
Dental Decay (Root Surface)
As one ages, the incidence for decay can increase, especially root surface decay. The exposure of the tooth’s root surface occurs in seniors primarily from gum tissue receding as one ages. Root surfaces do not have a
protective enamel layer and are primarily composed of softer cementum, which easily decays. Plaque and bacterial accumulation can collect on these surfaces increasing the risk for this type of decay. Since the root surface
lacks enamel, decay can more easily penetrate the tooth’s pulp (nerve), which can cause endodontic (root canal) problems and in worst scenarios, tooth loss. Older fillings may also wear and fracture as one ages causing weakening or loss of teeth.
Tooth Wear and Excessive Staining
With the increased wear of teeth over the years, many seniors may notice an unaesthetic appearance. Teeth can become unsightly and can make one appear older than they really are. Teeth can also stain, especially since
these areas of enamel wear are excellent places for debris and plaque to accumulate and stain over the years. Also, as the protective enamel wear occurs, the yellowish dentin is more apparent causing teeth to appear darker.
Hypersensitivity of teeth is also common causing unnecessary discomfort in patients.
Gum Disease (Periodontal Disease)
The most common cause of tooth loss in adults is gum disease. Bacteria create toxins which inflame and irritate gum tissue. Over the years, a slow progressive detachment occurs that affects the supporting bone, which
dissolves. Tooth loss eventually results, especially if left untreated. The elderly are more prone to this condition as a result of smoking, poor diets, poor oral hygiene habits and certain medical conditions. It is imperative that one have regular dental checkups to determine if they have this condition.
The problem of broken down or missing teeth can be easily remedied in most cases. However, ignoring these dental problems may cause additional tooth and bone loss which can lead to more expensive treatments. That’s why it is better to take care of minor problems right away, before they get bigger and more expensive to repair.
Replacing missing teeth will help you to keep and maintain the health of your smile for a long time. Unlike baby teeth, we want to keep our permanent teeth as long as we can. Gum disease is the leading cause of missing teeth in adults. It can be prevented or stopped by keeping your mouth as clean as possible through daily brushing, flossing, and regular check-ups.
Gaps between teeth can occur naturally or when teeth have been lost. A gap between the front two teeth, called a diastema, is natural for some; many choose to have it closed for cosmetic reasons although a diastema poses no harm to oral health. People often live with spaces between their back teeth for years because they do not cause a cosmetic problem. However, these spaces can lead to dental problems.
Loss or Alteration in Taste
Many seniors experience the loss of their taste sensation as they age. This can occur as a normal result of aging. However, certain diseases and medications can increase the incidence of taste loss. Ill fitting dentures or
other removable dental appliances can increase the alteration of taste. Patients should always notify their dentist and/or physician if they have any type of alteration or loss in their taste sensation.
Many new and exciting treatment alternatives have been developed in dentistry over the years that can help seniors restore their teeth to a much more functional, healthy and youthful look.
Dental Services for Seniors in Houston
We would like to provide you with an overview of some of the services we offer. This is by no means the full extent of our service. Again, if circumstances dictate we have no hesitation in referring our patients to specialist colleagues where we are confident our patients will receive the best of care.
We want you to be happy with your smile! We always strive for perfection and are only satisfied when you are. Our goal is to create an atmosphere of professionalism, trust and complete customer satisfaction.
Through preventative techniques, educating our patients, listening and caring and dedication to our profession, we believe we can offer the very best in dental health to our patients in the Chicago, IL area.
We realize that our most important mission as dentists is to be informed and up-to-date in our treatments and to always practice a caring and gentle approach with our patients.
- Diagnostic Exams
- Dental X-Rays
- Dental Care & Cleaning
- Porcelain Inlays
- Porcelain Onlays
- Root Canals