May is Older Americans Month - a national campaign aimed at raising awareness about the important issues facing older adults. The campaign also strives to help people make lifelong improvements to their health and quality of life.
Wellness is an important part of aging and oral health is a big part of that. Cavities aren't just for children. As we get older, we enter a second round of cavity prone years.
One common cause of cavities in older adults is dry mouth. While dry mouth is not a normal part of aging, it can be a side-effect of more than 500 medications, including those for allergies or asthma, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, pain, anxiety or depression, Parkinson's and Alzheimer's diseases. This is just one reason why it's so important to tell your dentist what medications you are takings so that they can make recommendations to help relieve your dry mouth symptoms and prevent cavities.
Some remedies for dry mouth include: over-the-counter oral moisturizers, drinking more water to keep your mouth sufficiently lubricated, using sugar-free gum or lozenges to stimulate saliva production and avoiding foods and beverages that can irritate dry mouths such as coffee, alcohol, carbonated soft drinks and acidic fruit juices.
Many older adults have gum disease, which is often painless until the advanced stage. If left untreated, gum disease can cause gums to pull away from the teeth and form deepened spaces called pockets where food particles and more plaque may collect. Advanced gum disease can eventually destroy the gums, bone and ligaments supporting the teeth leading to tooth loss.
When you're caring for someone who is confined to bed, they may have so many health problems that it's easy to forget about oral health. However, it's still very important to care for their teeth. Help them keep their mouth clean with reminders to brush and floss daily and make sure they get to a dentist regularly.
For more information about aging and oral health, visit MouthHealthy.org. To learn more about Older Americans Month, visit http://oam.acl.gov/resources.html.© American Dental Association. All rights reserved. Reproduction or republication is strictly prohibited without the prior written permission from the American Dental Association.