oral health for senior citizens

More than 1 in 7 Australians are now aged 65 or over, as improved healthcare and awareness are helping us to live longer, healthier lives. More people are also keeping their teeth long into their senior years.[1]

However, since many oral health risks increase with age, this makes it important to know how to look after your teeth and gums and how to spot common signs of problems.

What dental problems affect seniors?

The National Dental Telephone Interview Survey 2013 offers the most recent snapshot of senior oral health in Australia. It found that:[2]

  • 53% of seniors aged 65 and over had gum disease
  • 24% avoided eating certain foods because of problems with their teeth
  • 22% felt uncomfortable about their dental appearance
  • 19% of seniors had no natural teeth remaining
  • The average person over 65 had 10.8 missing teeth

Gum disease is the most common oral health problem, affecting more than half of seniors. This is likely to be a more advanced stage of gum disease (periodontitis) than that experienced by younger age groups, because of age-related risk factors.

Why does oral health matter?

Oral health problems like tooth decay and gum disease can be painful, but they can also cause more serious problems, including:

  • making it painful or difficult to eat, which can affect nutrition and weight management
  • tooth loss
  • disrupting sleep
  • affecting speech
  • affecting appearance and self-esteem

Gum disease has been linked to a number of chronic health conditions and could increase your risk of developing oral cancer, heart disease, lung diseases and stroke, among others. Having poor oral health can also affect responses to diabetes, aspiration pneumonia and other health problems.

Even if you've lost your teeth and wear dentures, it's important to keep your gums healthy to prevent gum disease and related health risks.

How to improve your oral health

If you want to lower your health risks and keep any remaining teeth for longer, it's important to maintain good oral hygiene. Dentists recommend:

  • brushing your teeth twice a day, preferably in the morning and at night
  • using a fluoride toothpaste and brushing for 2 minutes
  • changing your toothbrush or electric toothbrush head every 3 months
  • flossing between your teeth once daily to remove trapped food and plaque
  • drinking plenty of water throughout the day to avoid dry mouth
  • cutting down on sugar to help prevent tooth decay and gum disease
  • cutting down on tobacco, caffeine and alcohol to lower your health risks
  • using an antibacterial mouthwash if this is prescribed by your dentist
  • visiting your dentist for a regular check-up and clean or any time you notice something unusual about your mouth

Are you due for a check-up?

Do you need to see a dentist in Noosa? Contact our friendly team at Tewantin Dental Centre to make an appointment with our dentists and hygienists. We'll check for any signs of problems and give you personalised advice about how to look after your teeth, gums or dentures.

Call (07) 5447 1361 or book an appointment online.

References

1. Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. Older Australia at a glance [Online] 2018 [Accessed June 2019] Available from: https://www.aihw.gov.au/reports/older-people/older-australia-at-a-glance/contents/health-functioning/oral-health-disease

2. AIHW: Harford JE & Islam S 2013. Adult oral health and dental visiting in Australia: results from the National Dental Telephone Interview Survey 2010. Dental Statistics and Research Series no. 65. Cat. no. DEN 227. Canberra: AIHW.

3. SA Health. Why oral health care is important for older people [Online] 2018 [Accessed June 2019] Available from: https://www.sahealth.sa.gov.au/OralHealthForOlderPeople

4. Healthdirect. Dental care tips [Online] 2017 [Accessed June 2019] Available from: https://www.healthdirect.gov.au/dental-care-tips