90% of elderly people have at least one missing tooth.
•Saliva decrease is a common ailment in senior citizens that affects their oral health.
•Missing teeth can cause digestive problems, which is why the use of prosthesis is necessary.
Senior citizenship is the stage in life that presents more teeth complications, this due to poor oral hygiene, infrequent visits to the dentist, development of periodontal disease and the decrease of saliva in the mouth as a product of medication consumption. All of these factors cause tooth loss in most elderly people.
It is estimated that after 60 years old, 9 out of 10 people, has lost at least one tooth. As years go by, teeth suffer wearing down, change in color, lost of original shape, breaking and sharpness which makes them more susceptible to loss. Lack of care and the presence of disease on top of those factors will make the situation even more complicated for this population.
A common complaint in seniors is dry mouth, known as xerostomy, which is produced by age but mainly due to elevated medication consumption. Saliva plays an important role in the mouth, as it acts as a protective fluid which helps scrunch foods, can help prevent cavities, and fights periodontal disease.
Xerostomy in elderly population causes an unbalance in tissue, such as bone and gums, which can suffer a volume decrease that can start exposing tooth roots, which can generally end up creating difficult spaces to clean in between teeth, resulting in a more severe gum and bone loss, and therefore, tooth lose as well.
As saliva production is diminished, dry mouth occurs, which can cause burning sensation and pain in tongue, lip fissures, constant thirst, oral lesions, mucose increase, plaque accumulations, cavities, wearing out of tooth enamel, infection, and difficulty to wear prosthesis in edentulous patients.
The condition can also develop gastrointestinal alterations, difficulty in speaking, chewing, swallowing, and tasting foods, which can extend to nutritional disorders. To avoid these complications, salivary secretion stimulants are recommended, such as sugar-free gum, citrics, and artificial saliva substitutes.
If the elderly person has lost most of their teeth, it is necessary that these patients wear either partial or total prosthesis. The reason is so that they will not be forced to eat foods with the remaining tissue, which prevents foods to be chewed properly, causing poor digestion and possibly even causing other serious problems.
The use of dental prosthesis also favors the esthetic part of a senior´s smile, as their gestures, their lips, wrinkles and cheeks are supported by teeth structures. When there are no teeth left, the muscles surrounding the mouth lose tonicity and create changes in facial expression and general physical appearance.
Nowadays, technology and advanced dentistry allow performing implant supported dentures, which can be either removable or fixed, and that offers great stability. This technique is much more complex than regular dentures, which is why a thorough evaluation by a specialist is necessary in order to determine if the patient is a candidate for these types of procedures.
The most important thing is to maintain natural teeth in the best condition as possible; however, if the deterioration is severe, people must go to the specialist, who will decide what the best method for each specific case is recommended. If the tooth can be restored, crowns are an option, if there are spaces in between or missing teeth, bridges can be performed. When the patient is edentulous, the best option is to perform a full denture, partial dentures with dental implants, or implant supported dentures; again, the treatment depends on each person´s specific case.
To avoid severe deterioration in oral health, people must create good oral hygiene habits and care since childhood, in order to be able to reach senior citizenship with healthy teeth and mouth. It is extremely important to brush your teeth after every meal, use floss daily, mouthwash, have a healthy diet with adequate levels of carbohydrates consumption, and high in fiber.
The use of fluoride is also important as, administered in adequate concentrations, can stop cavity development and can add minerals to teeth. Regular professional cleanings and visits to the dentist at least twice a year must not be ignored.
When a person uses regular dentures it is imperative to remove them after each meal for cleaning. The best way to do so is by using a tooth brush and liquid soap, or to utilize special effervescent pills that clean the prosthesis by putting them in a glass of water and placing the pill in, which will remove any food residuals stuck to the prosthesis.
Dentists recommend the elderly person´s family to be aware of the dentures condition, and if they present any discomfort in the tissues while wearing them, as this might be a sign of disadjustment which will either need a rebase or replacing of the prosthesis. In average, dentures can have a useful life of around five years, however, the dentist must perform an examination to determine if it is necessary to repair or replace them completely with a new one after this time.
Poor oral and hygiene habits practiced along life are the main causes for tooth loss in elderly people due to all the diseases that can develop as a result. This is the reason why optimal oral care must be taught to children since early ages to avoid the negative consequences of poor hygiene, such as tooth loss, when reaching adulthood and senior citizenship.
By: Prisma Dental
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