As people mature in life, sometimes different aspects of oral health can become more complicated. The population that is 65+ years is growing every year and by 2030 is predicted to be over 20% of the United States. The average lifespan for both men and women is also increasing each year. This means that patient education is very important to maintain quality oral health for as long as possible.
Some of the complications of other aspects of health can lead to negative oral side effects. Comorbidities – such as diabetes, hypertension, or cancer – have been proven to have a direct negative correlation to oral health. Polypharmacy, or the use of multiple medications, is a very important aspect to consider as a dental practitioner. Dry mouth, sores, or a shift in oral bacteria are all changes seen with multiple medications. Also, these medications may change what types of prescriptions or procedures a dentist chooses to do. Other changes in health, such as senility or arthritis, can limit a patient’s oral hygiene routine. If a patient is unable or cannot remember to take care of their teeth, then ultimately there will be some damage to their teeth.
The main dental conditions that tend to increase with age are dry mouth, root decay, periodontal disease, and fractured teeth. Saliva plays an important role in maintaining a balanced pH in the mouth and washing away leftover food, so when there is a decrease it can directly lead to more decay. As gum recession increases throughout life, this leads to more root structure being exposed. Because the root surface is not nearly as strong as enamel, the combination of dry mouth and recession can lead to widespread decay on the roots.
However, despite these possible complications, there is still an overall positive trend in dental health. The average number of retained teeth has increased while the number of fully edentulous (missing all teeth) patients has decreased drastically over time. Part of this is an overall healthier population – a smaller percentage of patients with comorbidities, which tend to be better controlled with a smaller amount of medications. There has also been a change in patient attitude, more people wanting to retain natural teeth as opposed to former logic of just wanting problem teeth extracted.
The dentists at Stephens Dentistry are committed to helping patients however they can. Whether it is discussing treatment options, helping improve oral hygiene, or speaking with a patient’s primary care physician; there are always ways to help improve someone’s oral health condition. Any patient should be comfortable contacting the office to discuss these possibilities, whether it is for themselves or for a family member. Together, patients and dentists will work together to increase these positive trends for dental health in a maturing population.