Tooth loss or Edentulism is losing one’s natural teeth. The rate of tooth loss among older adults is generally monitored to conduct studies on the general oral health of the population. Tooth loss usually depends on various factors like age, economic conditions, habits, and health conditions. Infrequent visits to the dentist or improper care of teeth can lead to early tooth loss.
Edentulism greatly decreases the amount of food intake. It also results in unclear speech. People with tooth loss cannot consume many fruits and vegetables, thus impairing their overall health in the long run.
Dental caries is caused by the surface of the tooth dissolving due to multiple factors. The enamel and the organic acids that form the protective cover of a tooth are slowly eroded over time by bacterial activity. Tooth decay happens over a period of time by the combined efforts of bacteria and sugar intake. Tooth decay means a tooth is completely destroyed. In older adults, dental caries happens faster when they suffer a major emotional or physical upheaval, like shifting to a new place or loss of a partner. However, dental caries is painless in older adults, so it is more difficult to detect.
The main causes of dental caries are the consumption of sugary foods, poor or no brushing of teeth with fluoride toothpaste, dry mouth, and intake of fizzy drinks frequently. The first signs of caries are bad breath, toothache, tooth sensitivity, brown and discolored teeth, and teeth covered in food and dirt.
Periodontitis is a degenerative gum disease. If gingivitis or plaque build-up is left untreated over a long period of time, it might result in periodontitis. Eventually, the gum is eroded away and the tooth might fall off or have to be removed. Periodontitis is diagnosed by red, swollen and sensitive gums, receding gums, loose teeth, pus between teeth and gums, bad breath and improper fitting of teeth while the mouth is closed or while eating.
Regular dental check-ups, proper brushing and reducing intake of sugary snacks and fizzy drinks can help avoid periodontitis or at least, reduce its impact.
Tooth sensitivity is caused by the erosion of enamel that protects the delicate dentine inside. Both young and old people complain of tooth sensitivity. It is particularly distressing while eating something very cold or very hot. Tooth sensitivity is rarer in older adults, due to the protective nerve coverings formed in earlier years. However, tooth sensitivity in older adults could be a result of tooth decay. It is always better to get a dental check-up done.
Dry mouth or Xerostomia is a condition that occurs mostly in old age. In this condition, the mouth becomes very dry due to the malfunction of salivary glands. it could happen due to certain medical conditions or due to some medications like antihistamines, antidepressants, hypertension medications, painkillers, etc. People having dry mouth disorder are more susceptible to tooth diseases like tooth decay, bad breath, and gum diseases.
The common symptoms of Xerostomia are difficulty in swallowing and speaking, soreness or burning sensation in the mouth, and dry mouth. You could talk to your doctor regarding your medications, and also make it a point to maintain your oral hygiene routine and drink plenty of water to prevent dehydration.