Gum disease can menace a smile at any age, but it is significantly more likely to occur in people over sixty. Since it takes years to develop, older people are more likely to suffer from it than younger people, but a dentist can provide services to preserve their gum health. Here’s more about why seniors tend to deal with gum disease more often, and what they can do to keep their smiles healthy.
What Is Gum Disease?
Gum disease is an infection of the gums that begins with plaque accumulating at the gumline. If plaque is not removed, it will harden into tartar, which shelters bacteria that attack the gum tissue. The first stage of gum disease is gingivitis, during which the gums become inflamed and show symptoms such as a fiery red color, swelling, and bleeding. If left untreated, the infection will go deeper into the tissue to cause periodontitis, which can result in tooth loss, deterioration of the jawbone, and secondary infections throughout the body.
Why Do Seniors Experience More Gum Disease?
Gum disease does not happen overnight; it often occurs over time due to chronically poor oral hygiene, and seniors have had much more time for it to develop. Often, seniors neglect their oral care because other health concerns seem more urgent at the time. Some reasons why seniors might develop gum disease are:
- Lacking nutrition: As a person gets older, their metabolism slows and their appetite decreases. With less desire to eat, someone might fail to consume enough of the nutrients they need for their gums to stay healthy.
- Substance abuse: Decades of smoking or excessive drinking increase the risk of gum disease by causing the gums to harden as a defense against the harsh chemicals consumed.
- Hormone imbalances: Women experience fluctuations in hormone levels during menopause, making them more susceptible to a painful gum disease known as desquamative gingivitis.
- Diseases: Elderly people are more likely to deal with systemic disorders like diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, and rheumatoid arthritis. These disrupt the body’s natural inflammatory responses, making them more prone to gum disease.
- Medication: Certain medications have dry mouth as a side effect. Since saliva flow is a huge part of the mouth’s natural cleaning process, this can increase the risk of gum disease.
- Decreased ability for self-care: Some seniors deal with mental or physical disabilities that can hinder their ability to make it to dentist appointments or practice good oral hygiene for themselves.
What Can Seniors Do to Keep Their Gums Healthy?
The best way for seniors to prevent gum disease is by keeping up with dental appointments, practicing good oral hygiene, and avoiding bad habits. An excellent daily oral hygiene regimen includes brushing at least twice, flossing, and using antibacterial mouthwash. Habits to be avoided include smoking, excessive consumption of sugar and alcohol, and using teeth as tools for anything other than eating. Since seniors are also more likely to use dental appliances such as bridges and dentures, it’s important to keep these appliances clean and in working order to ensure that the mouth remains healthy and visually appealing.
Even if seniors can be more susceptible to gum disease, they are not defenseless against it. In addition to excellent self-care, consulting with a dentist can help an older person learn the best ways to keep their gums healthy and their smile beautiful.
About the Practice
South Shore Dental Care provides a wide range of dental services with cutting-edge technology to the community of Massapequa Park, NY. Led by Drs. Dory and Khalida Stutman, the dedicated staff delivers exceptional care in a warm and welcoming environment. Areas of expertise include general, pediatric, restorative, and cosmetic dentistry in addition to periodontal treatments. To learn more about keeping your smile healthy when over the age of sixty, contact the office online or dial (516) 798-3808.