Aging & Dental Health

Couple.Today, Americans are not only living longer — we're also retaining our natural teeth longer than ever before. But this rosy picture isn't free of thorns: Older adults tend to require increasingly complex dental treatments; are often more prone to contracting certain diseases; and sometimes find it challenging to keep up with daily oral health practices.

Yet maintaining good oral hygiene is critically important as we age. When problems occur in the mouth, they can cause difficulty chewing, swallowing, speaking and smiling — basic functions which can affect both physical and social well-being. It's possible that medications prescribed for other diseases can adversely affect a person's oral health; it's also possible that a decline in oral health can worsen existing maladies (such as diabetes), or even cause systemic (whole-body) inflammation. What other special dental issues do older people face — and what can be done about them?

Dental Concerns for Older Adults

If you think cavities are just for kids — think again! A recent study found that nearly one-third of people over 65 had untreated dental caries (cavities). In older people, these are found not only in the crown (chewing surface) of the tooth, but also in the root, which may become exposed due to gum recession. Regular dental checkups are the best way to find and treat dental caries; left untreated, they can cause pain, require more complex procedures, and eventually lead to lost teeth.

Gum disease is another major oral health issue faced by older people — and it's presently the leading cause of tooth loss in adults. The disease is caused by plaque bacteria, which thrive on the sticky biofilm that clings to the surface of teeth when they aren't properly cleaned. Poor-fitting dentures can make the problem worse, as can the presence of certain diseases (such as diabetes or cancer).

Sometimes, decreased mobility (due to arthritis or similar conditions) makes routine brushing and flossing more difficult. Special brushes with larger grips and floss holders can help make daily cleaning easier; additionally, therapeutic mouthrinses may be prescribed. In-office treatments can also be effective in bringing gum disease under control.

Blythe Danner Oral Cancer Video.

Oral cancer is a concern at any age, but it's 7 times more likely to show up in a person over 65 — and it causes more deaths in older Americans than skin cancer does. Early detection offers the best chance at controlling the disease, and improves survival rates significantly. A thorough screening for oral cancer should be a part of every older person's routine dental checkup.

Dry mouth (xerostomia) isn't just an annoyance — it can be harmful to your oral health. Aside from its lubricating qualities, saliva contains beneficial digestive enzymes, acid neutralizers, and bacteria-fighting agents. A number of factors may cause the body to produce less saliva than normal — but in older adults, this problem is often due to side effects from prescription or over-the-counter medications. If you're experiencing chronic dryness of the mouth, it's sometimes possible to change your medication, and/or use products designed to relieve these symptoms.

Oral Hygiene For Life

It was once commonly believed that dental problems and the loss of teeth were an inevitable consequence of aging. But here's the fact: Age itself isn't a risk factor for tooth loss; properly cared for, your teeth can last a lifetime. However, it's true that the mouth does change as you age. How can you give yourself the best chance of keeping your natural teeth? You guessed it: Maintain a regular practice of good oral hygiene!

Brush twice a day with a soft-bristled toothbrush — use one with a special grip, or an electric brush, if it helps. Clean in between your teeth with floss, or another type of interdental cleaner, at least once a day. If you wear dentures, regularly clean and care for them as instructed. Eat healthy foods and drink plenty of water. And don't forget to have regular dental exams so that little problems don't turn into major headaches!

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Testimonials

  • "This dental office rocks! Dr. M. & all her staff are knowledable, professional, & all very friendly."
    Lisa Griffith
  • "The entire staff at Ahh Dental are amazing. From the moment you walk in to the treatment area and checking out. Dr. Moreschini is very nice and makes sure patients are comfortable with any treatment. I would recommend everyone and anyone to Ahh dental!"
    Stephanie Lovato
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    Herman Lujan
  • "This team is awesome! Each and every one of them are present when you are talking and they explain everything in a language you can follow. They each have a heart of gold. I recommend then to all. I will never go anywhere else for my dental care."
    Regan Rezac
  • "Dr. Moreschini is not only intelligent, well-versed, articulate in diagnosis as well as treatment, but kind and gracious in her treatment administrations. I knew, a year ago, Ahh Dental would be my dental home. I’m even more vested now as a patient but also as a “family member” to this exceprional team of people who strive to provide the best outcome for their patients. Thank you, Ahh Dental"
    Sabine Stanley
  • "I loved this dental office. When I moved away from Santa Fe, I was sincerely sad because it also meant saying goodbye to a dentist I could trust!"
    Jennifer Quick
  • "The patient comes first. The front desk, hygienist and dentist all work together to get you in the healthy zone. The office seems to be run professionally with all the insurance processes integrated."
    John Urbanowski
  • "Best dentist and caring staff."
    Yvonne Vigil
  • "From the front staff to my dental hygienist, everyone was so friendly and personable. Ahh Dental made me fill at ease and that my concerns were important. Very efficient, awesome experience."
    Barbara
  • "I visited Ahh Dental for the first time earlier today and it was one of the most positive experiences I've had at a dental office. I am actually looking forward to my next appointment. Everyone was extremely pleasant and attentive. If you are new to town, or just looking for a new dentist I highly recommend Ahh Dental."
    Kelse Lighthizer
  • "Amazing place! Amazing staff! Everyone that works there is so friendly and down to earth. Honestly wish I could come back all the time I enjoy it so much. Went above and beyond, very highly recommended!!"
    Jordan Higgins
  • "One of my top dental experiences. Everyone was very kind, knowledgeable, and professional."
    Diann Darnall
  • "Highly recommend Ahh Dental. Dr Moreschini is one the the best Dentist who is not only professional but cares about her patients and their well being. She has an excellent staff who are very helpful and also very professional!!"
    Marcella Sandoval
  • "This place is great! Super friendly and welcoming staff! I actually enjoy going to the dentist here! Really recommend them!"
    Oscar Rivera
  • "Dr and staff are the best! Always professional and friendly. They’re current about best dental practices, and the best thing? They don’t nickel and dime you to death. Love them!"
    Susan Miera
  • "Ahh Dental has a wonderful atmosphere and an awesome staff. My appointments and procedures have all been very pleasant and professional - thank you Ahh Dental for my happy teeth and big smile."
    Cherie Hughes
  • "It’s a pleasure sitting in Dr. Moreschini’s chair. She’s a stellar graduate of Creighton and a wonderful reminder of the Marquette University dentists I had for thirty years. She is always a pleasure to work with, efficient and excellent at pain prevention and management. This young woman is my third dentist in three years in Santa Fe. Unquestionably the best."
    Mark Janssen
  • "I'm so glad that I found Dr Renae. She's great to work with . Feel very at ease with her and her staff. Great people. Highly recommend her. Thanks Dr."
    John Vigil
  • "Very clean, conscientious about Coronavirus. Prompt, friendly, quality work"
    Victor Nelson
  • "I had a wonderful experience at Ahh Dental. Everyone was truly kind and professional. Everything was explained to me beforehand and they made sure I was comfortable and felt at ease. Dr. M.and her staff truly care about their patients. Thank you for making my dental appointment a positive one."
    Georgina Perez
  • "Excellent Ahh Dental was very professional and provided me with great care . You can definitely trust Doctor and staff. Procedures were pain free and the work that had been done is excellent you can not get any better service than that."
    Virginia Salazar
  • "Never had a more comprehensive exam and cleaning by dentist and Roxanne, the hygienist. They fortunately found two cavities that two other dentists had missed altogether.!!! a VERY BIG DEAL. also had to have a molar pulled and Dr. Moreshini was so skilled that I didn't even feel it at all! I learned so much from Roxanne about how decay happens, how to prevent tooth decay, how to effectively and affordable whiten my teeth.

    Amazing clinic... Everyone should experience this attention and care for their oral health care."
    Claudia Wolfe