Elderly Treatment

Dec 08
2014

Treatment of the Aging Population

Just a few years ago, it was assumed that by age 60, most people would have all of their teeth removed, and receive a pair of dentures.  However, today more patients are capable of holding onto their teeth much later in life.  Factors, such as physiologic changes in your teeth, saliva, diet, medicines, etc. can greatly impact your oral hygiene.  Overall, a healthy mouth equals a healthy body, which is one of our goals at Bellefonte Family Dentistry.

Yellowing and darkening of teeth is a common complaint we see from our senior patients.  This can be caused from a variety of reasons.  Changes in the dentin, which is the bone-like tissue under enamel, can show throw, causing the tooth to appear yellowed.  A lifetime consumption of stain-causing foods and beverages can also increase discoloration. Moreover, thinning of tooth enamel from acidic foods and tooth brushing contributes as well.  Treatment involves whitening agents, white “tooth” colored fillings, and veneers, all of which we would be happy to provide.

Dry mouth is also very common issue in the aging population.  Your saliva plays many roles, of which is maintaining the “healthy” bacteria in your mouth, restoring tooth structure, and washing away sugars that may cause tooth decay.  Unfortunately, many medications can cause dry mouth, and treatments for cancer, diabetes, autoimmune disorders, etc. can contribute to its severity.  We usually tell patients to drink plenty of fluids, carry a bottle of water with them, and to keep water near their bed at night.  We also suggest purchasing a Biotene type rinse that would help moisturize the mouth, especially before bedtime.

Another challenge influenced by aging is the increased chance of developing tooth decay / gum disease.  This can be from the enamel protective barrier becoming thin, making it easier for bacteria to cause destruction.   Receiving a cleaning and exam at 6 month (or less) intervals can help to control bacteria build up, which extend the life of your natural teeth.

For some, dentures become a safe and effective plan of care that accompanies the aging process.  Denture wearers have to go through some changes to become accustom to wearing their new set teeth.  We usually tell patients to chew soft foods and to cut up their food for the first few weeks.  Then, gradually, start chewing tougher foods.  At a minimum, complete denture wearers should return for a yearly exam.  At this exam we will evaluate the fit and bite of your dentures, and perform a head and neck exam.  Sore spots can occur with dentures where your gums will become inflamed and painful.  Sore spots with new dentures are normal as the denture settles in your mouth, and can easily be adjusted by a dentist.  However, sore spots in older dentures are a sign that the denture is not fitting like it used to and may need to be replaced or relined.  Dentures can also change the way food tastes due to covering some of your taste buds and temporarily increase your salivary flow.  Fortunately, these problems usually diminish with time.  Proper denture care includes brushing your gums and tongue with a toothbrush, rinsing and brushing your dentures, and storing them in water (with or without a denture cleaner). It is recommended to keep them stored in liquid to prevent warping of the plastic.  Dentures may be frustrating at first, but with time, you will love your new smile.

Giving you a beautiful, healthy mouth is our goal.  May it be through routine cleanings, complete dentures, implant retained dentures, or partial dentures, we would be happy to serve you.

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