You're Never Too Old to Visit the Dentist

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Elderly people with active root caries - decay at the roots of the teeth - show an increased risk for having irregular heartbeats, also called cardiac arrhythmias, according to a new study published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society.

Researchers discovered that having three or more active root caries doubled the odds of developing cardiac arrhythmias. Because arrhythmias can signal other possible undiagnosed diseases, the study's outcome emphasizes the importance of elderly people taking dental disease seriously.

"The findings make a strong case for the active assessment of and attention to oral problems for the older community-dwelling population," said Dr. Poul Holm-Pederson, lead author of the study. Dr. Holm-Pederson is professor and director of the Gerontological Oral Health Research Center in Copenhagen, Denmark.

Prevalence and risk factors associated with root caries aren't completely understood. But longer tooth retention by an aging population is increasing researchers' interest.

In the small number of completed studies, scientists have observed that only 30-40 percent of individuals within a study group bare the entire burden of root caries attacks.

© 2017 American Dental Association. All rights reserved. Reproduction or republication is strictly prohibited without the prior written permission from the American Dental Association.

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Common Conditions For ADULTS 55+

  • Gum disease
    This potentially serious condition occurs when the gum tissues surrounding teeth become infected because of a buildup of plaque on the teeth and gums. Gingivitis is the first stage of gum disease and is recognizable by swollen, red or bleeding gums. Gum disease is a concern for older adults for a number of reasons, including plaque building up on teeth and gums from not developing proper oral health care habits earlier in life.

  • Tooth or root decay
    Even at 55-plus years, adults can still develop tooth or root decay if gum recession has occurred. It is important for older adults to effectively clean the gums, the teeth and exposed root surfaces to remove dental plaque and food debris.

  • Sensitive teeth
    At some point, we've all tossed back a nice, cold glass of water only to grimace at that sharp, tingling sensation in our teeth. A number of factors cause tooth sensitivity, including brushing too aggressively with a hard-bristled toothbrush, worn tooth enamel, and a cracked or fractured tooth.