May is National Older Americans Month. Despite the belief that many seniors lose their natural teeth as they age, about 75 percent of people 65 and older have retained all or some of their natural teeth.
With that being said, there’s no doubt that older adults face oral health problems. Sure, one might think that he or she need not be concerned about cavities anymore. But, just like with younger people, tooth decay can cause pain and discomfort as well as wear down the gums. In fact, cavities can occur more frequently in older adults for several reasons. Firstly, seniors may not have been exposed to a fluoridated water system as children or used toothpaste that contains fluoride in the past.
As gum tissue begins to recede in older adults, cavities become more prevalent, since plaque has more space to harbor between the teeth and gums. Also, dry mouth, a result of the natural aging process and certain medications, can lead to more tooth decay. Perhaps most relevantly, older adults are also more likely to have decay around older fillings.
“I wish all fillings and dental work would last forever, but dental work requires maintenance,” Dr. Bruce Terry, a member of the Pennsylvania Dental Association, told the Digital Journal. “Everyone should be seen by their dentist regularly to see if there are any broken teeth or fillings. The health of the gum tissues can also be an early sign of several systemic diseases like diabetes.”