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Today, older adults are keeping their natural teeth longer because of scientific developments and advancements in dental medicine.

The growing awareness of the importance in preventive dentistry and thorough brushing twice daily and flossing enables older Australians to keep their natural teeth in good condition. Plaque, the sticky, colourless layer of bacteria that causes tooth decay and periodontal (gum) disease, can build up quickly on the teeth of older adults, particularly when they neglect oral hygiene.

Should adults be concerned about cavities?

Tooth decay and periodontal disease is a concern for people of all ages, dental caries do not affect only children. However, the nature of the decay problem changes as people grow older. Adults are more likely to develop decay around older fillings, and because many older adults grew up without the benefits of fluoride, and less awareness of tooth decay, they may have more fillings. Tooth root decay is also common among older adults. Root caries (decay) occur when the gums recede, exposing the softer root surface, which decays more easily than the hard tooth enamel.

Saliva is vitally important for maintaining good oral health as it helps to wash away food particles, and neutralise decay causing food acid. Some medications for older patients can inhibit their salivary gland and reduce their saliva production. Left unattended, dry mouth can lead to rapid tooth decay. If you think you may have this problem, be sure to discuss it with us at your next visit.

Even if you have lost your natural teeth, regular dental examinations are still an essential part of good oral and overall health. Dr James will examine your mouth to check for any problem with the gum ridges, the tongue and the joints of the jaw, as well as screen for oral cancer. For a variety of reasons, many older adults are more susceptible to oral diseases, including oral cancer.

An estimated 95 percent of all cancers diagnosed are in patients over age 40. However, it is important to note that many of these cancers are treatable if detected early. Oral tissues are also checked for signs of other diseases that can first manifest themselves in the mouth.

It is essential to keep us informed of any medication you are currently taking, either prescription or over the counter, these medications may impact on your oral health. This information will also help us to select the safest and most effective method of treatment for you.

Women who are menopausal or post-menopausal may experience changes in their mouths. Recent studies suggest that oestrogen deficiency could place post-menopausal women at higher risk for severe periodontal disease and tooth loss. In addition, hormonal changes in older women may result in discomfort in the mouth, including dry mouth, pain and burning sensations in the gum tissue and altered taste, especially salty, peppery or sour. Most women find that oestrogen supplements help to relieve these symptoms.

Denture Care

Denture wearers need to avoid plaque build-up, which can irritate the tissues under the dentures. Thoroughly clean dentures daily and remove dentures at night to avoid bacterial growth. If you wear dentures, you need to continue to have regular check-up appointments. Because mouths continually change, dentures need to be checked for correct fit to avoid irritation, increased bone loss and infections. A change in the fit of partial dentures could indicate periodontal disease.