Avoiding Common Senior Oral Health Issues

Beaverton family dentistry

At our Beaverton family dentistry, Dr. Scott Walker wants to help educate patients on how their oral health changes as they grow older. As with most parts of our bodies, our teeth and gums change in various way over the years. However, tooth loss and gum disease don’t have to be part of our oral health future. We all can enjoy a healthy, great-looking smile during our retirement years as long as we take the time and make the effort to continue practicing quality oral hygiene.

Of course, growing older also means experiencing more common oral health problems. Fortunately, knowing how to identify those problems before they can exacerbate to cause permanent damage can help to prevent the type of tooth decay and gum disease responsible for ruining the health of our smiles.

Let’s take a look at some of the most common age-related oral health problems senior patients tend to develop and a few tips on how to treat or avoid them entirely.

Dry Mouth

By far the most common oral health issue experienced by seniors, dry mouth occurs whenever saliva levels in the mouth decrease. Saliva acts as the body’s natural defense mechanism against harmful oral bacteria that grows in the mouth. Not only does saliva work to neutralize the corrosive compounds produced by plaque that contributes to the development of tooth decay, it also helps to flush food particles that linger in the mouth after eating away from the surface of our teeth and gums.

When saliva production drops, plaque and food particles remain in the mouth long enough to contribute to the development of cavities and gum disease. Just think of dry mouth as turning your oral health into a desert where everything becomes dry and brittle.

A variety of issues can contribute to the development of dry mouth, including some of the medications we commonly take. There are over 500 different commonly prescribed medications that can cause dry mouth as a side effect, according to the American Pharmacists Association. These medications treat everything from heart disease and stroke risk to depression and anxiety.

If you experience frequent bouts of dry mouth, you should consult with Dr. Walker about the medications you take during your next visit to our Beaverton family dentistry. Dr. Walker may be able to identify certain types of medication that may be contributing to your dry mouth. If so, consult with your physician about the possibility of switching to another medication that will treat your underlying condition without contributing to dry mouth.

If a medication isn’t to blame, patients can take steps to try and stimulate saliva production. Chewing sugar-free gum between meals and using an artificial saliva substitute are two potential options.

Bad Breath

Frequently, patients who experience persistent bad breath will also develop chronic cases of bad breath. While poor oral hygiene ranks as the most common cause of bad breath, the condition can also be caused by bacterial issues in the mouth or other underlying health conditions.

In addition to dry mouth, diabetes and certain types of respiratory issues can contribute to the development of bad breath.

Bacteria in the mouth begins to breakdown and decay when allowed to remain stagnant. This happens especially quickly when saliva levels become low and the mouth dry. When bacteria starts to decay, it begins to smell and bad breath develops as a result.

Preventing bad breath means staying dedicated to practicing quality oral hygiene on a daily basis. Brushing and flossing daily, along with scheduling regular exams and cleanings at Beaverton family dentistry, can prevent the type of bacterial buildup most responsible for bad breath.

Gum Disease

Gum disease ranks as the world’s most prevalent untreated infection. While half of all adults in the U.S. deal with severe gum disease, a condition known as periodontitis, the condition only becomes more common among seniors. A remarkable 75 percent of seniors 65 and older deal with either moderate or severe gum disease.

The prevalence of gum disease among seniors greatly contributes to the high rate of tooth loss experienced by seniors. Often, the tooth loss we consider inevitable as a result of growing older is simply a matter of allowing untreated gum disease to devastate our oral health.

While our gums become more susceptible to the effects of bacteria the older we become, tooth loss is far from inevitable. Regular dental care is key when it comes to protecting our oral health as we grow older. Unfortunately, due to Medicare practices and a diminishing view of the importance of oral health, many seniors actually receive less dental care, not more.

Quality gum health is possible the older we get if regular preventative dental care remains part of our routine. Brushing and flossing daily and regular visits to our Beaverton family dentistry must remain part of routines if we hope to avoid the type of oral problems that lead to permanent tooth loss.


You can enjoy a great-looking smile for a lifetime. You just need to make quality oral hygiene a lifelong commitment.