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Is Dry Mouth Normal?

A common problem experienced by seniors is constant dry mouth. For a long time, there has been a myth that it’s a normal part of aging and that seniors shouldn’t pay much attention to it. That standard response to dry mouth is very common, but unfortunately it’s not correct. While dry mouth doesn’t necessarily cause any harm on its own, it can indirectly have a severe impact on the teeth of any senior – regardless of the current state of their teeth.

The human body produces very large amounts of saliva each day. That saliva plays an important role in your oral health, as it helps keep not just the roof of your mouth wet, but your teeth as well. It may not seem that important, but with a dry mouth, your teeth are extremely susceptible to chips, fractures and other severe damage. After just days of having a dry mouth, perfectly healthy teeth can deteriorate and cause the need for immediate oral surgery and extremely large medical costs.

While dry mouth can damage teeth regardless of your age or demographics, the problem is exacerbated even more when it comes to seniors, as teeth have weakened over time. Your teeth are nowhere near as strong when you’re 65 as when you’re 35, and having a dry mouth will cause damage faster the quicker you are. The reasons for dry mouth among seniors vary. As you get older, your body naturally starts to produce less saliva – though it still produces enough. In addition to that, many of the medications taken by seniors cause dry mouth as a side effect. Both combined create a harsh, dry mouth with an detrimental environment for teeth.

The key here is to differentiate between common and normal. Dry mouth is a common problem for seniors, but it’s not normal whatsoever. If you experience dry mouth for a period longer than 24 hours, you should immediately make an appointment with your dentist. Try to constantly drink water to stay hydrated and keep a flow of liquid in your mouth as much as possible, limiting the detrimental effects of dry mouth. In addition, it would be a good idea to see your general doctor and determine if any of your current medication can cause dry-mouth, and if so, check for alternatives that may not have the same side-effects.

At-Home Dental Treatments

For some seniors, going to the dentist is simply an impossible task. That is especially true when you consider how often seniors need to see a dentist compared with younger, healthy adults. One of the greatest assets to any senior is Geriatric Dental Care at home – where a dental professional goes directly to your house and treats you on your own bed! Believe it or not, most treatments that you go to the dentist for can be done directly in the comfort of your own home.

What can be done at home?

Mobile dental clinics have gotten so sophisticated, thanks to technological improvements, that you can now transport virtually every machine inside a dentist’s office directly into a patients’ home. That is ideal for your standard X-Rays that become more and more important the older you get. It is also perfect for other preventative care dental services, such as teeth whitening’s and fillings.

In addition to those basic services, at-home dental geriatric care can perform more complex procedures – such as the creation of new dentures, the repair of old ones, crowns, bridges and even root canals. Depending on the teeth and severity, a variety of tooth extraction procedures can also be performed directly in the comfort of your own bed.

What can’t be done at home?

Over the past few years, high-tech introductions in the dental industry has made the needed equipment smaller and mobile, which means that virtually everything can be brought to you. With that said, if you are experiencing a dental emergency, it is highly recommended that you go to the dentist yourself in order to get treated right away. Most at-home dental care services work on a schedule with other patients and set appointments to see you, thus are much less likely to be available during a dental emergency (such as losing a tooth or other severe issues).

Does it cost more?

The mobile dental equipment is more expensive and safety regulations require more time and insurance from a mobile dentist. In addition, it limits the amount of patients a dentist can see in any given day. Naturally, that means that costs are going to be more than what they would have been otherwise. However, insurance is still accepted and the benefits from getting oral care in the comfort of your own home outweigh the additional costs involved.

Most Common Dental Problems For Seniors

As with the rest of the human body, teeth begin to deteriorate as people age. Studies have shown that one third of the senior population in the United States don’t have a single original tooth left. There are many dental problems that occur with older age, and some of the most common ones are listed below, as well as tips to mitigate the damage and allow your oral health to be as healthy as possible.

  • Dry Mouth

Most seniors will tell you that at one point or another they’ve experienced uncomfortable dry mouth. While every once in a while this is normal, seniors who consistently experience dry mouth have a saliva deficiency that can lead to bigger problems. Lack of saliva damages teeth and dentures and leads to loosening and micro fractures. In just a few months of lacking saliva, you can go from a perfect healthy mouth to a dozen severe cavities.

  • Dentures

The invention of dentures has been a blessing for millions of seniors. Teeth are an unfortunate consequence of aging, but dentures allows people to have teeth that allows them to communicate effectively and look normal even as they get older. They are very delicate however, and the use of dentures will require consistent care, often each and every day, leading to some headaches for many patients.

  • Sensitivity

Another consequence of aging is tooth sensitivity. As you get older, your teeth begin to get hypersensitive, which means that something too cold – such as ice cream or ice water will create a sharp pain, as will something too hot. That is because tooth enamel begins to fade, and what was previously protecting your teeth from extreme temperatures is no longer there. Any time you feel a change in sensitivity it’s important to have it looked at by a dentist as they will be able to tell you if it’s normal, or part of a greater problem such as gum disease or cancer.

  • Gums

Your gums also begin to deteriorate with time, though that process begins often in your 40s and 50s – way before you’re considered a senior. But think of what 15-25 years of slow deterioration does by the time you reach your 60s and 70s – and that’s why the problem is common and often extreme for seniors. That is even more so for smokers, dippers and drinkers, as those substances lead to quicker deterioration of the gums and to various gums diseases such as advanced periodontists.

3 Dental Tips For Seniors

When it comes to geriatric dental care, there are a lot of different steps and procedures seniors must do to take care of their teeth – things they didn’t have to do when they were younger. At the same time, nearly every dental tip and suggestion that applies to children and adults applies to the elderly. For example, avoiding sugary sweets and drinks and brushing your teeth daily are still important! However, there are certain tips that are primarily helpful to seniors.

1. Don’t Forget Your Dental Hygiene

Just because you’re older doesn’t mean seniors need to forget good dental hygiene methods that they’ve hopefully used throughout their lives. Brushing your teeth twice daily is just as important, if not more important, for the elderly as it is for young adults. The reason is because your teeth are more sensitive and vulnerable to damage when you’re older, so it’s vital to take good care of them. In addition, don’t forget to floss – it’s still important to prevent gum disease!

2. Dental Visits Are Just As Important

Your routine dental checkups are just as important as hygiene. The difference is when you’re young you can afford to miss an appointment here or there. One missed appointment as a senior and you can lose half of your teeth – not exaggerated at all. While it’s possible to maintain good, healthy teeth into your senior years, it makes double the work that it once did. Even then, regardless of how good your dental hygiene is, there is a lot that can only be seen by trained dentists and high-quality X-Ray machines, which is why it’s so vital to get constant checkups (twice per year, at least, are recommended).

3. Increase Your Vegetable Intake

While eating vegetables is good for physical and mental health, it’s also a vital aspect of oral health for seniors. As dry mouth is an extremely common problem among those over 65, usually caused by medication (as well as natural aging), it causes teeth to also get dry and crack much easier. Vegetable are known for being able to increase saliva production, meaning that the more vegetables you eat, the less damage that any dry mouth issues will cause to your teeth. With that said, it’s still important to see your dentist when experiencing dry mouth to ensure it’s not a symptom of something more serious.