Seniors can enjoy a lifetime of healthy teeth and gums, but your oral health needs change as you age. We’re here to help you understand the new challenges you may face and how to maintain optimal dental health into old age. Dental procedures for seniors can be stressful and uncomfortable. However, if done correctly, they can help seniors maintain their healthy smiles.
1. Dental Implants
A dental implant is a permanently anchored tooth root replacement that can be used to replace single or multiple missing teeth. They are artificial tooth roots placed into your jawbone where your teeth used to be. Implants are made of titanium and serve as anchors for replacement teeth (known as dentures). Your dentist will place a titanium post into your jawbone where they want you to have an implant.
This is among the dental procedures that involve surgically placing the implant into the jawbone and then covering it with a grafted bone material called morselized bone matrix (BMX). This process takes about three months to complete, during which healing occurs around the implant site. Once healed, an abutment will be attached to the implant and a crown placed on top of it. The procedure is typically completed within six months.
2. Root Canal Therapy
Root canal therapy is needed when the pulp chamber inside your tooth becomes infected or inflamed. The pulp is the soft tissue inside the tooth, which contains nerves and blood vessels that allow you to feel hot and cold and pain. A root canal removes all infections from inside your tooth and replaces any damaged tissue with a filling material (usually gutta percha). A root canal can help relieve pain caused by tooth decay or injury, but it doesn’t prevent your tooth from getting cavities or developing other issues in the future. You’ll need regular checkups every six months to ensure everything is okay. After completing root canal therapy, your tooth will be saved from having to be pulled and replaced by an artificial one.
3. Dental Cleaning
A dental cleaning is when your dentist removes plaque between your teeth using special instruments called curettes or ultrasonic scalers. This eliminates any tartar (hardened plaque) that has formed on your teeth, which can cause gum disease if left untreated. Your dentist will also check for cavities and other signs of tooth decay during this appointment. Dental cleanings help prevent gum disease, tooth decay, and other oral health issues that can cause pain or even lead to death in some cases. If you’re an older adult and have never had a dental cleaning before, talk with your dentist about this important procedure as soon as possible.
4. Teeth Whitening
Teeth whitening is one of the most popular cosmetic dental procedures for older patients. Although many people think it’s only for cosmetic purposes, this procedure has many other benefits. Many seniors want whiter teeth because they don’t want their smiles to look yellow or gray. Teeth whitening is a simple procedure where the dentist applies a gel to the surface of your teeth and uses an LED light or laser to activate it. The gel breaks down stains on the surface of your teeth, so they look whiter for up to two years. Dental care providers offer several teeth-whitening options for seniors. These include in-office professional tooth whitening and at-home systems such as strips, gels, and trays.
Filling a cavity involves replacing decayed or damaged tooth structures with new material. They are used to repair small areas of decayed or damaged tooth structure (known as caries). Most fillings are made from materials compatible with your mouth and last longer than amalgam (silver) fillings. Depending on your needs and preferences, fillings can be made out of porcelain, composite (tooth-colored) resin, or gold. Depending on their quality, they can last anywhere from seven years to 15 years, depending on their quality; however, if you have allergies or sensitivities to certain materials used in fillings (such as metal), those fillings may start showing signs of decay earlier than expected.
Composite resins are often used because they’re less expensive than porcelain and more durable than gold alloys. They are strong and durable but can yellow over time if not cared for properly or touched up with additional fillings down the road. The composite resin hardens when exposed to an electric current during placement and sets once outside your mouth. Fillings are generally placed during regular dental visits. Still, sometimes you need an emergency appointment if decay has spread too quickly for the dentist to fit you in during normal hours.
Tooth extractions are one of the most common dental procedures performed on older adults. Extraction refers to removing a tooth that has been damaged beyond repair so that it cannot be restored with a filling or crown. Extractions may be necessary if a tooth has an abscessed root, decay has destroyed the pulp tissue inside the tooth, or if there is damage to surrounding teeth which makes removal safer for everyone involved. While this is generally among the most straightforward dental procedures, it can be painful and cause some bleeding. If there is a risk of complications during the process, your dentist may refer you to a doctor or specialist who will look over your medical history and recommend whether or not you should undergo this type of treatment.
Some dentists recommend taking an over-the-counter pain medicine like ibuprofen before the procedure, while others prefer prescription painkillers like Vicodin or Percocet. The process involves removing a tooth from its socket and may be performed under local or general anesthesia. You should also expect some swelling after the extraction, which will subside within a few days. The gums are then sutured closed, and stitches may be used to close any openings left behind by the missing tooth.
A crown is a cap placed over a damaged or weakened tooth to restore its strength, shape, and appearance. You may need a crown if your tooth has failed root canal therapy or lost bone support around your natural tooth because of gum disease or injury. A crown is similar to a filling but used when a tooth is so severely decayed that it needs to be rebuilt with an artificial material instead of just having its surface restored with a new enamel layer.
Crowns can be made of gold, porcelain, or plastic. They can be either partial or complete coverage crowns depending on the severity of damage to the tooth. It completely covers the entire visible part of your tooth while restoring its function and appearance by making it look like an ordinary healthy tooth again.
8. Gum Surgery
Gum disease is more common in adults over age 65 than younger people. This can happen because older adults are more likely to have health conditions that affect their gums and teeth, such as diabetes and heart disease. Gum surgery, or periodontal surgery, involves removing diseased tissue from the gums and bone. This surgery is often recommended as a periodontal treatment to remove diseased gum tissue, allowing the remaining healthy tissue to heal properly. Gum disease can cause your gums to become swollen or red, bleed easily, and have pockets where bacteria collect. If left untreated, gum disease can lead to tooth loss. This procedure is often required when periodontal disease has caused a severe bone loss that can’t be stopped with other treatments.
9. Oral Cancer Treatment
Oral cancer is a rare but severe condition that can affect people. But it’s most common in seniors because they have an increased risk of developing precancerous lesions that turn into oral cancer over time. It takes longer for symptoms to appear in older patients. If oral cancer is detected early enough, it’s often treatable with a combination of chemotherapy and radiation therapy. If it’s found, later on, it may require surgery or removal of part or all of your jawbone (mandible).
Your dentist will examine your mouth and neck for signs of oral cancer during your regular checkups. If he finds any suspicious areas, he may refer you to a specialist for further evaluation and treatment. Treatment for oral cancer depends on several factors, including the stage of the disease and whether other cancers are present elsewhere in the body (such as lung cancer). Surgery is often needed to remove tumors or lymph nodes around the mouth and jawbone.
Dentures are removable appliances that replace missing teeth and provide a stable foundation for the lower jawbone, which may improve chewing function and speech clarity. Denture use increases with age because many people lose their teeth as they get older or have difficulty chewing without them. Dental implants are among the dental procedures becoming a popular alternative for replacing missing teeth if you don’t want dentures or if your doctor recommends removable dentures instead of implants because there’s enough bone remaining after a tooth has been removed.