As of July 1, 2015, the senior population, those age 65 and older, in the United States has reached 47.8 million, accounting for 14.9 percent of the country’s total population that year. The number is 1.6 million more than the population of senior citizens in 2014.
According to the United States Census Bureau, by 2060, the number of people in this age group will reach 98.2 million or about one in four US resident. Of this population count, 19.7 million will be people whose age is 85 or older.
What is “old age”?
“The latter part of normal life” was how a quick search on Google defined old age. “The state of being old,” the next entry said. The term “old age” is equated to the end of the human life cycle, seniority, and the ages above 60.
It often constitutes the thinning and shrinkage of bones and the joint, chronic diseases like hypertension, and the loss of the skin’s elasticity. Old age also manifest reduced mental and cognitive ability.
What does “old age” mean for oral health?
Reaching the “latter part of normal life,” regarding oral health, means a higher risk of dental health problems which include darkened teeth, less saliva, reduced sense of taste, tooth and root decay, tooth loss, periodontal diseases, uneven jawbone, use of dentures, among others.
The thinning of the tooth enamel, partnered with a lifetime-worth consumption of stain-causing foods and drinks, causes the exposure of the darker yellow dentin — the bone-like tissue underlying the tooth enamel.
Older people tend to have lesser saliva than other members of the population due to the various medications they take for their conditions. However, less saliva leads to dry mouth which increases the susceptibility for other oral health-related issues.
Tooth and Root Decay
The tooth and its root become expose to decay-causing acids due to gum recession. The exposure results to the tooth and root decay as the tooth’s enamel begins to thin and the root, which lacks the enamel to protect it, becomes vulnerable.
Older people have a higher risk to develop gum disease caused by the accumulation of plaque that can be aggravated by leftover food particles, tobacco use, ill-fitting bridges and dentures, poor diets, and diseases such as anemia, diabetes, and cancer.
Because of the high risk of developing oral health problems, senior citizens are more likely to experience tooth loss especially when these issues remain untreated.
What are the ways to take care of the teeth in old age?
- Practicing good oral habits, such as brushing and flossing, remains to be the best way to lower the risk of dental problems.
- However, because medical conditions like arthritis in the fingers and hands can make brushing and flossing difficult or even impossible, older people can use an electric toothbrush to make the oral health practice more comfortable and more convenient.
- Visit the dentist. Regardless of age, dental visits are crucial to oral health as they help resolve dental problems and check the status of a person’s oral health. Signs and symptoms of dental and periodontal diseases can be detected early through a dental check-up which can prevent further complications, and early treatment can be done.
- Since tooth loss is prevalent in old age, dentists may recommend dental procedures such as dental bridge, dentures, and dental implants to replace a missing tooth.
- Maintainance of dentures is essential in preventing bacteria and plaque buildup. Here’s how you can maintain your dentures:
- Soak the oral appliance in a denture cleaner recommended by your dentist to kill germs and eradicate odor and prolong the working order of the equipment.
- Do not soak the dentures in hot water or abrasive substances to avoid warping.
- Removing the denture at least four to eight hours or while sleeping is recommended.