Several months ago, in The Importance of Dental Care for Seniors, I talked about the common oral health problems seniors endure. While I talked about ways to prevent these problems, I failed to address what to do if you are already in the midst of it. Here, I’ll explain the common dental solutions used to cure these common oral health problems among seniors.
1. Gum Disease Requires Scaling and Root Planing.
Scaling and root planing is a deep-cleaning method to get rid of the tartar and rough spots above and below the gum line. However, there are some situations where this may not be sufficient to get rid of gum disease. In those instances, a laser may be used to remove the tartar and plaque.
Additionally, if those methods do not get rid of your gum disease, flap surgery and bone and tissue grafts may be your next step. For flap surgery, the gums have to be lifted back and the tartar removed. The gums are then stitched back into place. Following flap surgery, your periodontist or dentist may recommend bone and tissue grafts to replace any bone or tissue lost to periodontitis. Gum disease is not something you want to endure, but if you do, you sure don’t want to endure it for long.
2. Darkened Teeth Are Improved by Teeth Whitening.
As with any darkened or stained teeth, teeth-whitening is your solution, along with eating and drinking more nutritious foods and drinks. While over-the-counter teeth-whitening kits can be used, seeking this procedure from your dentist will be much more effective, especially if you have dark stains on your teeth.
3. Root Decay Needs a Root Canal.
A root canal is essentially a filling for the very center of your tooth. It replaces your tooth’s damaged or infected pulp with what's needed to heal it, temporary tooth filling and the root canal filling. This treatment should last you a long time if you maintain good oral hygiene.
4. Diminished Sense of Taste? Seek a Doctor’s Consultation.
While there is no common procedure for this ailment, talk with your doctor. Your sense of taste is extremely important. Without it, you may experience a loss of appetite, poor nutrition, weight loss and a weakened immune system.
5. Dry Mouth Requires a Change in Habits.
There are several ways to relieve your dry mouth, and none of them include an intensive dental procedure. First, chew sugar-free gum or suck on sugar-free hard candies. This will stimulate saliva flow. Second, watch how much caffeine you have. This is a huge contributor to dry mouth. Third, stop using tobacco; this will benefit you in more ways than one. Finally, sip water regularly.
6. Loss of Teeth Will Eventually Require Dentures.
There are two types of dentures—partial and complete dentures. Partial dentures are designed to fill in the gaps where your natural teeth have failed. Complete dentures are put in when all of your teeth are missing.
If you’re hesitant about getting dentures but know you need something to replace your missing teeth, you might also consider a dental implant. These are usually more expensive, but they feel more like real teeth. However, not everyone is qualified to get implants. Speak with your dentist if you are interested in exploring this option.
7. Uneven Jawbone May Qualify for Surgical Jaw Correction.
The most common solution for an uneven jawbone is jaw surgical correction. However, as a senior adult, this may not be the best solution for you. If you have an uneven jawbone that is causing you problems, like temporomandibular joint disorder (TMJD), speak with your dentist about the best options for you.
8. Tissue Inflammation Could Be Caused by a Lack of Denture Hygiene.
If your gum tissue is inflamed due to your dentures, it is likely your dentures are not being cleaned well enough or don’t fit you properly. If the first, make sure you are removing your dentures at night, cleaning and disinfecting them and storing them overnight in an antiseptic solution. If it’s the latter, speak with your dentist about the improper fit.
9. Oral Cancer Has Several Treatment Options.
Oral cancer can be treated through surgery, radiation therapy or chemotherapy. Some patients diagnosed with oral cancer may even need to receive a combination of all of these treatments. The first step is getting diagnosed by your doctor or dentist, and then your doctor will guide you from there.
10. Thrush Treatment Requires a Cause.
First, let me explain what thrush is. Thrush is a fungus overgrowth in the mouth and throat. Treating thrush greatly depends on what is causing the infection. If it is being caused by a product that can be stopped like certain antibiotics, ill-fitting dentures, smoking or poorly controlled diabetes, then you may be able to cure the infection easier than you thought. However, for more severe cases of thrush or other causes, you might need to talk to your doctor about what you can take to get rid of the infection.