Tooth decay is one of the most common dental problems in elderly and can cause pain, infection and even tooth loss. Tooth decay is caused by a build-up of plaque and tartar. A sugary diet and a decrease in saliva production as we age contribute to the build up of sugar acid in the mouth. Conditions that elderly people may be living with impact tooth decay, for example arthritis and dementia which make regular tooth brushing either painful or difficult. Tooth decay stresses the importance of oral care in elderly and brushing twice a day with a fluoride toothpaste, preferably with an electronic toothbrush, as well as reducing the intake of sugary foods.
As we age, many people will experience a decrease in saliva production. This is commonly known as dry mouth or xerostomia. Many medications that an older person may be required to take can cause dry mouth. A dry mouth means that sugar and acids build up in the mouth more easily, resulting in tooth decay, receding gums or gum disease. It can also cause sore, dry and cracked lips or a swollen tongue, which makes it difficult to swallow and can impact speech. It is important that you drink water frequently, avoid sugar where possible and try to increase saliva production, for example by chewing gum, sucking a sugar-free lozenge or sweet and by using a mouth rinse regularly.
Receding gums is a process that occurs overtime, whereby the gums shrink away from the teeth. Good home dental care is important to delay this process, however there are other contributing factors including family history, bruxism (teeth grinding), smoking and drinking.