Tooth decay. Plaque caused by bacteria harms the tooth enamel and causes cavities. One of the reasons older adults are at increased risk of cavities is dry mouth. Saliva helps protect the teeth and reduces bacteria, but dry mouth is a side effect of certain drugs commonly taken by seniors, such as medications for depression, asthma, and high blood pressure.
Gum disease. Two in three seniors 65 and older have gum disease, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Severe gum disease, also called periodontitis, can lead to sore, bleeding gums, chewing problems, and tooth loss, among other health problems. Unfortunately, many people don’t know they have gum disease because it doesn’t cause symptoms until the disease advances. Good senior dental care and regular dental exams can help prevent gum disease.
Tooth loss is common in older adults. In fact, one in five adults 65 and older have lost all their teeth, according to the CDC. Tooth loss can affect nutrition because seniors with missing teeth may not be able to eat or enjoy fresh food options, like fruits and vegetables.
Heart disease. Inflammation caused by gum disease increases the risk of heart disease, according to the American Academy of Periodontology. Gum disease can also make certain heart conditions worse and may be associated with a higher risk of stroke.
Diabetes. People with poor blood sugar control are at higher risk for dental problems, such as inflammation and gum disease. This is because too much glucose (sugar) in saliva helps bacteria grow in the mouth. Gum disease also seems to affect blood sugar control in people with diabetes.