Aging and Oral Health

senior woman smiling with her daughter

The 65+ age category is among the fastest-growing segments of the population in Canada. We all want to age gracefully and enjoy a high quality of life.

As we age, we become more prone to certain types of concerns. Below are a few of the most common as well as what can be done to help mitigate those concerns.

1. Gum and Bone disease- As gum disease is a chronic bacterial infection that affects the jaws, its consequence, in terms of bone loss and tooth loss, becomes more apparent as we age. About half of all Canadians have gum disease, with that statistic being over two-thirds in the 65+ age group.

Being consistent in your home oral hygiene regimen as well as regular visits to the hygienist, between two to four times a year, will help keep the disease process under control.

2. Dry Mouth- As we age, we tend to take more prescription and over-the-counter medications, many of which reduce the amount of saliva our salivary glands produce. This leads to a dry mouth with can make it more difficult to eat, swallow and speak. About 15% of Canadians have dry mouth or Xerostomia, and that shoots up to over 30% of those aged 60+.

Using sugar-free gum, keeping hydrated, and exploring alternative medicines that have fewer side effects for the oral cavity, are all ways to help address a dry mouth.

3. Cavities- As we get we become more likely to have manual dexterity issues due to arthritis. Flossing can become especially frustrating. Making use of an electric toothbrush, as well as a Waterpik, will help reduce food debris in the mouth. Using fluoridated mouthwashes will help reverse any small cavities that are starting.

4. Oral Cancer- Over 3500 people will get oral cancer in Canada this year. More than a third of those will die. Patients over the age of 60 are at the greatest risk. Oral cancer is highly curable if caught early. However, in the early stages, it is typically painless. During your visits to your dentist, they will typically perform a head and neck exam to screen for oral cancer during your routine checkups.

For more tips about how to take care of your oral health as you age, ask your hygienist or dentist.

Dr Yamen Ghamian and Dr Habib Khoury