The Spanish Society of Periodontics and Osseointegration (SEPA) has been involved for a number of years in campaigns for the prevention of periodontal disease (gum disease) and dental problems in older adults. One of the aspects highlighted by SEPA is the relationship between dental problems and general health problems such as heart disease, respiratory illnesses, rheumatic conditions, diabetes, osteoporosis, obesity…
According to the last census carried out by the National Statistics Institute, 19.3% of Spaniards are over the age of 65. In this population group, the probability of suffering from a chronic disease, or any of the aforementioned conditions, increases considerably. For this reason, we believe it is important to talk about oral health in older adults.
What changes occur in the mouth in later life?
- Difficulty chewing (due to tooth loss)
- Loss of elasticity in the oral mucosa
- Slight loss of taste and smell
- Alterations in saliva
Dental treatment for people over 65 years of age
Dental treatment for older patients is similar to that for patients of any age.
Soft tissue injuries
Soft tissue injuries are common in older people for two main reasons: the use of certain medication and the use of dentures. If this type of problem occurs, it is important to go to the dentist, as it could worsen and lead to ulcers appearing.
Tooth decay (dental caries)
The approach taken to treat the caries will depend on the type of caries and the patient’s general state of oral health. Restorative or endodontic (root canal) treatment can be carried out in older patients with the same probability of success as in younger patients, always taking into account the periodontal prognosis.
Periodontal (gum disease) treatments
Age is not a limitation for periodontal treatment, however, a patient’s general state of health is. Physiological changes in the elderly condition the evolution and treatment of periodontitis. For this reason, it is essential to regularly attend periodontal maintenance appointments in order to monitor the disease and bacterial plaque.
Crowns and dentures
In general, the same strategy is followed as in the any other patient. The first option should always be crowns (fitted onto either teeth or implants). Crowns must be kept clean in order to avoid tooth decay or gum disease that prevent their success. As a second option, there are partial removable dentures, which are used in cases where permanent crowns are not possible. The final option for dental problems being complete dentures.
There are usually no contraindications for treatment with dental implants in older adults. In fact, the process of osseointegration and soft tissue healing is similar in the healthy older adult to that of the young adult. And, obviously, a person’s chewing function proves much better with crowns attached to implants than with complete removable dentures.
In short, there is no doubt that good oral health is essential for quality of life. Our clinics always recommend that you go for regular dental check-ups, whatever your age, to be able to smile at life and for life to smile back at you too!