One out of five adults over the age of 65 no longer have any teeth. Of the aging adults who still have their teeth, 96% will have a cavity and 1 in 5 will not have the decay treated.
Read more about how to prevent and treat dental decay in a parent or senior loved one.
As we age, our teeth also age and the health of our teeth can suffer, sometimes causing trouble with nutrition, as well as making us feel less confident.
This occurs over time through the buildup of bacteria, which creates dental plaque. Plaque can hold onto teeth and slowly eat away at the tooth surface causing cavities, also known as decay. Dental cavities or decay can form for months before signs arise.
Once the decay starts to form a hole in the enamel, the following symptoms can occur:
These are all signs that the protective layer of the tooth is breaking down.
As we age, our diet and habits start to show in our teeth. According to the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research, 31% of people over the age of 75 years no longer have any remaining teeth.
In the elderly, tooth decay can be caused by many different factors, like:
The secret to preventing dental decay is not a secret at all. Try these five healthy habits to keep teeth healthy:
Smoking and/or chewing tobacco are both connected to tooth loss. Talk to a health professional about quitting these habits.
Brushing and flossing are essential for healthy teeth. To help a parent or senior loved one who has difficulty cleaning their teeth, try these tips:
Teeth are strongly impacted by the food that we eat. Make sure that a variety of foods containing calcium, healthy fats and nutrients are eaten. Look at ways to increase the number of vegetables and limit starchy and sweet foods. If missing teeth or a sore mouth make it difficult to eat raw vegetables, consider cooking a puree or vegetable soup.
40% of people over the age of 75 struggle with a dry mouth. Make sure that plain water is being consumed throughout the day. Limit the use of alcohol and drinks that are high in caffeine or sugar, which can make the mouth drier.
It is recommended to see a dentist at least once a year. Regular check-ups can catch decay before it becomes a large problem. Discuss with your loved one if they are reluctant to see a dentist.
Once dental decay is evident, it is important to see a dentist as soon as possible.
If a loved one has cognitive or physical difficulties, talk to a dentist about how to make treatment easier. There may be offices that specialize in sedation dentistry or working with a person who has cognitive difficulties.
No matter your age, your teeth are vital to your health. Keeping your mouth healthy affects the health of your entire body.
What has your experience been like preventing dental decay in an elderly loved one? What tips do you have for helping a senior keep their teeth healthy? We’d like to hear your stories in the comments below.