Which segment of the population is most at risk for dental decay?
Generally, most people assume that children are at a higher risk. If that was your guess, you’re not wrong. But right up there with them is the senior population.
According to researchers, 93% of seniors over the age of 65 have dental decay.
Why are seniors so prone to getting cavities? And how can Calgary dentists help seniors lower their cavity risk?
Why Are Seniors at a Higher Risk for Getting Cavities? 6 Factors That Can Lead to Decay
Here are the top six reasons why seniors are at a higher risk of developing dental decay.
1. Gum Recession Leaves Root Surfaces Vulnerable
What causes gingival recession? Factors include:
- Brushing with a hard- or medium-bristled toothbrush
- Scrubbing your teeth too hard/vigorously
- Periodontal disease
Using anything but a soft-bristled toothbrush will damage sensitive gum tissue, as will brushing too hard.
What about gum disease? When bacteria-laden plaque and tartar aren’t cleaned regularly and remain under the gumline, varying levels of gum disease may result. This can eventually lead to an infection, which can, in turn, lead to bone and soft tissue loss. Gum disease is considered to be the number one cause of gum recession.
How does this contribute to dental decay?
The tooth has three layers: the enamel, dentin, and root chamber. The root surfaces of the teeth do not have any enamel. Because of this, decay can start more easily and spread more quickly.
2. Age-Related Health Conditions Take a Toll on Dental Health
The aging process can definitely take a toll on our bodies. The immune system becomes weaker and it’s easier to come down with something or end up with a serious diagnosis.
Health conditions more common to seniors include:
- Heart disease
- Parkinson’s disease
- Alzheimer’s disease
Studies have shown that diseases like diabetes, Alzheimer’s disease, osteoporosis, and HIV/AIDS can contribute to dental conditions, including cavities.
3. Poor Home Care Is a Common Problem
Poor dental home care is not uncommon amongst seniors for two reasons.
First, some have developed bad habits over the years. For example, brushing with a hard-bristled toothbrush instead of using a soft-bristled electric toothbrush leads to recession and decay over time.
Second, some don’t have the ability to take care of their teeth like they used to. Perhaps they have really bad arthritis, or maybe they’ve had a stroke and can no longer use their dominant hand.
Because of this, they aren’t able to brush or floss as well as they used to. This can lead to plaque and tartar build-up, and later to gum disease and decay.
4. Medications Can Cause Dry Mouth
Due to increasing health issues, many of us have to take prescription medications. One of the side-effects of a number of commonly used medications is dry mouth.
Our saliva acts as a barrier against cavity-causing bacteria and acids in our mouth. Without that barrier, it’s far easier to develop cavities.
5. Dietary Changes Can Have an Impact
Nutrients keep our body strong. Without them, we’re very susceptible to infections and things like dental decay.
Unfortunately, many seniors aren’t getting the nutrients they really need. They may not be able to cook for themselves like they used to. Or, chewing might be more difficult due to missing teeth, pain, or ill-fitting dentures.
6. Lack of Dental Insurance Keeps Many from Visiting Their Dentists
According to The Canadian Health Measure Survey, over 50% of seniors don’t have dental insurance. Because they’re on a fixed income, paying for dental treatment is difficult, if not impossible in some cases.
How a Calgary Dentist Can Help You Avoid Cavities
Thankfully, with the help of a Calgary dentist, seniors can actually reduce their risk of getting cavities. Here’s how:
1. Early Detection Can Stop Decay Progression
Regular dental visits give us the opportunity to find decay early. We can take care of the cavity before it progresses into a major problem. This can prevent pain and save seniors a lot of money in the long-run.
2. Regular Cleanings Can Help Prevent Cavities
Regular dental hygiene doesn’t just happen at home, it happens in the dental office, too. A professional hygienist is vital to decay prevention because they can remove plaque and tartar from below the gumline. A regular toothbrush can’t do that.
3. Oral Hygiene Instructions and Patient Education are Vital
Not everyone knows how to brush properly. Learning proper brushing and flossing techniques can help prevent cavities, which is why this is an important part of our dental hygiene appointments.
Our team makes sure to regularly review proper home care techniques. We also do our best to encourage healthy habits, including providing dietary recommendations. Plus, we explain the latest dental products and technology
4. A Calgary Dentist Can Provide You with an Extra Layer of Protection
Patients who have gum recession or are prone to decay can receive fluoride treatments when they visit us. These treatments come in the form of:
Getting Assistance from a Professional Dental Team Can Improve Your Dental Health
According to research done by the American Dental Association, approximately one-fifth of seniors haven’t seen a dentist in over five years.
This is unfortunate because getting dental care from a good Calgary dentist is one of the best ways to prevent dental decay. Regular cleanings and checkups can also reduce the risk of developing gum disease.
Visiting your local Calgary dentist regularly is also one of the best ways to improve your overall health. We’re proud when patients make their dental health a priority – doing so can reduce their risk of serious health conditions like heart disease, endocarditis, and pregnancy complications.
If you are a senior or an adult child caring for your senior parents, don’t wait for a major dental issue to arise before taking action. Make it a point to see your dentist regularly. Believe us – you won’t be sorry!
Are you worried you might have a cavity? Has it been a while since you’ve seen a dentist? Call or email us to schedule an appointment right away. We look forward to addressing all of your dental concerns.
All people are awesome. Let us ensure your smile is too!