Dental Issues for Seniors
Dr. Mehrabani and Dr. Gordon focus primarily on minimizing four main oral health problems faced by seniors:
Gingivitis (Gum Disease)
Chronic exposure of your gums to plaque can cause them to become irritated, inflamed, and in some cases, to bleed. Eventually, the plaque can harden into a material called “calculus” or tartar. This material binds onto the teeth, is hard, and cannot be brushed off. It acts like barnacles on the side of a ship, hiding new plaque underneath the ledges. The outcome can be a slow destruction of the gum tissue around the teeth, and may result in pain, hypersensitivity and increased bleeding.
Periodontal (Bone Disease)
As gum disease continues to fester, the underlying bone begins to change, slowing dissolving and decreasing the support around the roots of teeth. Advancement of this disease can lead to the premature loss of teeth, sometimes preceded by spontaneous pain, difficulty in chewing, and hypersensitivity to cold. Occasionally a periodontal abscess can form which results in rapid bone loss with severe pain and swelling.
As we age, our salivary glands produce less saliva, resulting in a diminished ability to buffer acids produced by bacteria. Sometimes prescription medications cause dry mouth as a side-effect. Whatever the cause, the result is the same: individuals with dry-mouth have an increased susceptibility to decay and other oral health problems. Dentures will not have as much suction and will therefore be more mobile. Food will not become as lubricated during chewing, decreasing pre-digestion enzyme exposure and possibly creating an increased risk of choking.
Seniors are more susceptible to cancers of the head and neck – cancers that can be detected by dental examination. Risk factors such as smoking and alcohol use, compounded by years of exposure, can increase the chances of getting an oral cancer. Even heredity plays a role in cancer susceptibility. Dr. Mehrabani and Dr. Gordon are trained in the early detection of oral cancer, and performs an oral cancer screen during every checkup examination.