Oral diseases and conditions are extremely common among older Americans 65 years and older. Many of these older Americans do not have dental insurance because those benefits can be lost when they retire. About 25 percent of adults 60 years old and older no longer have any natural teeth. Periodontal (gum) disease or tooth decay (cavities) are the most frequent causes of tooth loss. Older Americans continue to experience dental decay on the crowns of teeth (coronal caries) and on tooth roots (because of gum recession). In fact, Older adults may have new tooth decay at higher rates than children. Candy (sugar) has long been identified by oral health experts as a major cause of tooth decay and cavities. Naturally occurring bacteria in the mouth feed on sugar in candy and other foods and turn it into acid. This acid attacks tooth enamel and causes decay.
Maintain your oral health by following the tips provided by Centers of Disease Control and Prevention.
• Drink fluoridated water and use fluoride toothpaste to protect against dental decay.
• Practice good oral hygiene. Careful tooth brushing and flossing to reduce dental plaque can help prevent periodontal disease.
• See your dentist on a regular basis, even if you have no natural teeth and have dentures. Professional care helps to maintain the overall health of the teeth and mouth, and provides for early detection of pre-cancerous or cancerous lesions.
• Avoid tobacco and limit alcohol consumption. Spit tobacco containing sugar also increases the risk of cavities. Drinking a high amount of alcoholic beverages is a risk factor for oral and throat cancers.
• Make sure that you or your loved one gets dental care prior to having cancer chemotherapy or radiation to the head or neck. These therapies can damage or destroy oral tissues.
• If medications produce a dry mouth, ask your doctor if there are other drugs that can be substituted. If dry mouth cannot be avoided, drink plenty of water, chew sugarless gum, and avoid tobacco and alcohol.
For more information on oral health on aging, visit www.cdc.gov