I think the following topic is so important especially having had some fantastic experience as a domiciliary dental officer. We are all living longer (the National Office of Statistics has all the figures) and we are keeping our teeth longer. Dentures are getting less common particularly full Dentures. The oldest person I have seen was 104 who had no teeth however I have seen a 101 year old with pretty much all their teeth! We are also having more complex dentistry performed in our mouths.
We may be taking more medication. Some of which have side effects for example a dry mouth. Saliva is important in the neutralising of acids in the mouth without it could result in an increased risk of decay.
Our dexterity can reduce making cleaning our teeth harder leaving more food and plaque behind which could result in decay and also gum disease.
A difficult subject, but also our mental health could deteriorate (for example dementia) and we could forget to brush our teeth. We may be reliant on a carer brushing our teeth who may find it hard to brush your teeth and unfortunately some won’t have the time to brush your teeth as well as you did. A small proportion will also neglect to brush your teeth. If you can it’s great to have ‘dental care’ in any care plan you may have as you get older (e.g. in care homes) and perhaps ask your family members in advance to raise this if you cannot.
Some research has shown a link between inflammation in the mouth and a deteriorating dementia. Dental Pain can definitely be a trigger to change in behaviour in individuals with dementia, for example avoiding food and not sleeping and I have seen this personally.
More of us are retaining teeth. Possibly the biggest factor has been the use of fluoride.
This gives the Dentist a harder challenge. We still see many of the ‘heavy metal generation’. Either post war where sugar consumption increased with the consequence of having lots of large amalgam fillings or the baby boomers who may have more disposable income resulting in more complex dental work. Individuals also want to save teeth where possible.
There are however options in this potential challenging situation of old age! Loosing teeth does not have to part of getting older.
Bonded white fillings can often be a great alternative to a traditional crown.
Tooth whitening can brighten you smile and make your teeth look more healthy.
Old discoloured crowns can be replaced with natural looking cosmetic crowns.
Implants have replaced dentures although in some instances a well designed and constructed chrome denture can ‘fit like a glove’.
We understand gum disease better. As long as we spend the time and care in this area we can slow or in some cases eliminate its progression.
Root canal treatment and re root canal treatments can be performed with the use of magnification and nickel titanium instruments. Fibre post can then be used to build up and reinforce teeth.
Some really manage well with full dentures so it could be the right solution for you or maybe you need your old denture replaced (if it’s loose and worn) to a more natural looking denture. A well-made denture can be a fantastic alternative to implants for example.
A key consideration when treating the older patient is also ‘planning for failure’ – being realistic as to what we can and can’t treat and thinking if that fails we can fall back on another treatment option. This means we need to take a holistic approach and treat the whole mouth rather than ‘single tooth dentistry’ which unfortunately happens so often.
At Odiham Dental with our experience and the time and effort we put in to our patients care we can help achieve and maintain a healthy mouth as we get older.
We do have wheelchair access too and have a large, bright and accessible treatment room. We can also organise home visits if required to provide basic treatment.
I look forward to seeing your teeth soon!