Many of our patients have been visiting us for well over 20 years. As these patients reach 50 years of age and above, we see a significant shift in the risk factors whichj affect them from a dental standpoint. There have been several instances of patients who have suddenly developed rather severe decay, gum disease, and general tooth attrition resulting from bite problems. These are patients who for years required only minimal and basic preventive and restorative care.
As a result, I decided to list and describe the top five dental problems which those of us who have reached age 50 and beyond are experiencing. In our next blog article, we will present the top treatments which have been successful at addressing these issues. As always, the best treatment and care which every dental patient needs is preventive care. Preventive care includes proper homecare and routine dental exams and cleanings. Those who are seen regularly in our office are much less likely to develop the major problems which some 50+ year olds experience.
The top five dental concerns are:
1. Dental decay especially around the gumline.
Often, as we get older, our gums recede leaving root surfaces exposed and gaps between the teeth. As the root surface is less smooth and softer than enamel, decay in these areas is quite common here. And between the teeth where spaces have developed, food and plaque become trapped and lead to decay as well.
2. Dry mouth, also known as xerostomia.
The amount of saliva in our mouths can decrease as we age. In addition, many medications can cause a reduction in saliva production leading to dry mouth. The importance of saliva in protecting our teeth and gums cannot be overstated. Saliva acts as a buffer to help neutralize the acids which are the main cause of dental decay and gum disease. Acids are formed in our mouths when the bacteria in plaque ingest carbohydrates like sugars which we eat.
3. Gum disease (periodontal disease)
It is not uncommon to see patients who have had mild to moderate cases of gingivitis in the past begin to develop more serious periodontal disease. Gingivitis is inflammation which is limited to the gums and results in redness, swelling and bleeding gums. If this problem progresses, the underlying bone may become involved and the attachments of the teeth becomes increasingly jeopardized. In its most severe form, teeth will become loosened and may eventually literally fall out.
4. Oral cancer
Traditionally, the use of tobacco and alcohol has been associated with oral cancer. Today HPV (Human papilloma virus) which is sexually transmitted has become the number one cause of oral cancer. In this case, the best offense is a good defense meaning regular dental checkups which include a proper oral cancer screening.
5. Crowded teeth
We have seen numerous examples of patients whose teeth have been slowly shifting over the years resulting in marked overlapping of especially the upper and lower front teeth. Teeth which are crowded tend to collect more debris and plaque than those which are straight. In addition, overlapping teeth are more difficult to keep clean. As a result, such teeth are more prone to both dental decay and gum disease. In addition, because crowded teeth do not meet the teeth in the opposing arch evenly, such teeth exhibit increased wear and chipping as they become more and more thin.
We will address possible solutions to each of these problems in our next blog. In the meantime, if you have any questions about any of these issues please feel free to contact us by telephone at 908.359.6655 or via our website at www.DesignsForDentalHealth.com