Getting older comes with plenty of potential complications and new things to worry about, and your dental health is no exception. Other conditions you may have can increase your chances of tooth decay or gum disease, and vice versa. Certain drugs can increase your risk of these things as a side effect. Managing your physical and oral health can be a bit of a balancing act. You don’t have to do it alone, but it’s important to know why you need to disclose to your dentist what medications you’re on, and conditions you may feel are unrelated.

Special Risks

Dry mouth, also known as xerostomia, is not a natural part of the aging process. However, the chances of neurological damage, damage to salivary glands, or the need to take a medication that has dry mouth as a side effect increases with age. Medications like antihistamines, antidepressants, and medications for high blood pressure often have dry mouth as a side effect.
Saliva is necessary for keeping harmful germs at bay. It also contains minerals that can help reverse early tooth decay. If you have dentures, dry mouth can make them fit poorly which can make them feel uncomfortable or cause sore spots on your gums. If you don’t make enough saliva to protect your teeth, tooth decay and gingivitis will soon follow.

Aging can also cause the gums to start receding, which will leave your roots exposed. Tooth roots lack enamel protection like the rest of your teeth, and are often more ridged, which provides a better environment for plaque to attach to your teeth to form tartar, which will irritate your gums and cause cavities.

This combined with other factors leaves you at increased risk for periodontitis, which is a serious gum infection that can lead to tooth loss and destruction of bone in your jaw, among other concerns.
Increased age can also lead to your nerves shrinking in your teeth, which makes you less likely to feel problems in your teeth until they’re more serious than they would have been otherwise. You might not be able to detect problems until they become severe.

Preventative Measures

It’s important to see your dentist every 6 months to catch any problems before they become serious. You may find that as you get older. Aging can also cause increased sensitivity to the drugs used in dentistry, which is an added complication you can run across if you have to get cavities filled or root canals.

Be honest with your dentist about the medications you’re taking and any conditions you may have that may increase your risk of tooth decay or gum disease, or may make it more difficult for you to adequately participate in your oral hygiene routine.

Your dentist will also be able to screen for oral cancers, which become more common as you age. Most people diagnosed with oral cancer are over the age of 55, and you don’t have to have a history of tobacco use to be at risk.

Your dentist will remind you of the importance of your oral hygiene routine, and make any changes necessary along the way. If you need any special treatment such as for dry mouth, your dentist can discuss treatment options for you to prevent problems.

Maintaining oral health is important to your physical well-being. If you have periodontitis your dentist will help you manage it to offset your increased risk of heart attack or stroke.
Children and seniors are the people most likely to end up with serious gum disease or tooth decay. You can minimize your risk by being proactive about your oral health care. Regular checkups are no less important than regular checkups with the rest of your healthcare professionals.