Igor A. Savchuk Articles on Medical Pathology & Healthcare

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Gum Disease In Seniors – Everything You Need To Know

While most children, youngsters and middle-aged people are rather safe considering they still have a well-functioning immune system, seniors face the brunt of it all if they are not careful about their oral health. It’s easy to follow some basic rules and stay on top of most issues related to gum diseases.

It’s imperative to understand what gum disease is and what causes it to take the required precautions. The fleshy foundation of your teeth visible from the outside is pretty strong but it has its own weaknesses. Every time you eat something and do not clean your teeth properly afterwards, some particles of food get stuck in between teeth or near the base of the teeth, just where the gums begin. If overlooked, the gradual accumulation of such food particles develops into plaque. As plaque formation increases, bacteria start populating in the areas and begin releasing toxins that slowly eat away at the tissue and enamel of the teeth. This is just the beginning of gum disease.

The milder form of gum disease, gingivitis, might set in without any kind of alarm bells going off or visible symptoms, but a dentist can find it with ease. Thus it is a really good idea to have regular visits to your dentist, probably once every three months if you are a senior. A great way to avoid gingivitis is to brush twice daily and floss regularly for people who have even teeth and no extreme crevices or gaps between their teeth. If however, you have uneven jawline or crooked teeth, you’d need to be extra careful when brushing or flossing to not leave out any spots. However, hardened plaque, known as tartar can only be removed by a dentist. The more severe gum disease that most often follows gingivitis is called periodontitis. That happens when gingivitis is left untreated for too long.

There are many reasons apart from simple negligence in oral care that can cause gum disease. They include, but might not be limited to –

1. Diabetes
2. Genetics
3. Hormonal changes in women
4. Medications that cause a reduced production of saliva
5. Age

Gum disease takes time to develop and by the time you notice it on your own, the situation might be far worse. Especially with seniors, it is advisable to be extra meticulous about their oral healthcare. It has been found that roughly 20 percent of people have undiagnosed gum disease. Treatment for gum disease becomes more difficult as the condition progresses. Though the symptoms of early gingivitis may not be that noticeable, it would be helpful if you kept a lookout on the following telltale signs –

1. Swollen or red gums
2. Bleeding gums, especially when brushing teeth
3. Bad breath or halitosis
4. Loose teeth
5. Sensitive teeth
6. Receding gum line
7. Pain experienced when chewing

If the symptoms are recurring, happening quite often, check with your dentist immediately.

As mentioned before, gum disease is an ailment that is extended over long periods of time. While that makes it hard to detect at home, it also means that precautionary measures work well against gum disease. Habits form a major part of the problem that aggravates any cause for gum disease in the worst way.

Smoking or chewing tobacco can be a major reason for halitosis and lower saliva production. This can create conditions in the mouth that could hasten the growth of bacteria. If you brush less than twice a day or skip flossing, you could potentially be leaving food particles lodged in between your teeth that can be a breeding ground for bacteria. Just because you brush twice and floss, it’s not necessary that you could be doing it right. Always check with your dentist about the best way in which you could floss or brush. Some people have sensitive gums by birth. For such people, using a particularly hard toothbrush can cause more problems. At times, flossing might not be possible. In such a situation, instead of rinsing with just water, use a proper antiseptic mouthwash or rinse. Grinding your teeth constantly can also make your teeth uneven and loose and increase the risk of gum disease.

Bad oral and dental health can have adverse effects on other parts of the body as well. The extreme infection could even need you to have a root canal operation to prevent damage to your nerves. Gum disease can lead to bone loss around the teeth if left untreated. People have far fewer accidents related to tooth loss than tooth loss due to gum disease. Losing teeth especially when in your advanced years can cause quite a few problems. There are many options like implants and dentures, to help compensate for lost teeth. While they do serve as a replacement for lost teeth, they are costly and involve painful procedures. You could check on the web for ‘family dentist near me’ and anyone you find will first suggest you take better care of your original teeth rather than going for implants or dentures.

Gum disease can also lead to many other health problems. In case of a weak immune system, the bacteria in your mouth can travel to other parts of the body and increase the chances of risk for heart disease or stroke. For diabetic patients, gum disease is no easy ailment to deal with.

There are quite a few ways to cut the chances of having gum disease if you are a senior. But that involves following certain rules and regulations. Check with your dentist about good techniques to use when brushing. How well and how regularly you brush are important for your oral health. Using short circular movements at 45-degree angle to your gums while brushing is a good start. You should also consult your dentist about how hard or soft bristles of your toothbrush should be.

Having regular checkups with the dentist once every 3 or 6 months is a good way to make sure no gum disease ever creeps up on you. In case you have already been diagnosed with gingivitis, visiting the dentist every two or three months for a cleaning is a must. Look up online for ‘dentist office near me’ to sort out places that can be easily reached. Strolling up for a dental checkup can be really enjoyable. Especially when after the checkup, the dentist cleans the tartar and plaque thoroughly, your mouth would feel renovated in a way.

In conclusion, keeping a close tab on what you eat can go miles in the way of preventing gum disease. Avoid excessively sugary foods or carbonated beverages. These things can eat away at the enamel of your teeth and can gradually impair the strength of the teeth overall. Long term effects include more plaque and tartar build up since a high glucose environment will cause excessive growth of bacteria. Smoking, consumption of excessive tea or coffee can also harm teeth and could potentially weaken gums. If you have a persistent habit of grinding your teeth or chewing, you might want to consider switching to sugar-free gum or drink a cup or two of water whenever you feel the urge to snack on something. Try to reduce your dependency on additives and lozenges as well. Proper brushing, regular flossing, rinsing with an antiseptic mouthwash and keeping your teeth clean other than when you are eating. These are the things that will help make sure that even as you age or even if you are a senior, you wouldn’t be facing extreme risks of gum diseases. Losing teeth is a natural process, but it is going to be hastened if you don’t maintain a healthy oral lifestyle. Gum diseases can be kept at bay even for senior people. Keeping in touch with your family dentist and regular visits will ensure that you can keep your pearly whites shining bright even if you advance through the years. Check with the dentist about what oral healthcare products to use. Do not just go by advertisements thinking that one size fits all. Everyone has a different sensitivity to toothpaste, toothbrushes, mouthwash and even water. Picking up anything and everything that the media suggests might not work out well for you. Always check with your family dentist, be it a slight tingling sensation when you taste something sour or a sharp sting when you have ice cream, especially if you have been advancing in years. Finally, no one is asking you to give up eating things that you like or stop drinking your favorite beverages, just remember, your teeth face everything first.

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Only researched & annotated information for the digest of medical professionals, students, and the curious. EMAIL ME if you spotted a mistake.

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