West Seattle Dentist: Oral Changes in the Elderly

What Oral Changes are Seen in the Elderly?

With the rise of the elderly population, an increasing trend towards poor oral health is seen. Traditionally, the trend is manifest in high levels of tooth loss, dental caries and periodontal disease experience, as well as dry mouth and oral precancer or cancer. On top of these, there is also evidence of the relationship between oral health and poor general health with links between severe periodontal disease and diabetes mellitus, ischaemic heart disease and chronic respiratory disease.

With advancing age, there are changes in the dental and oral structures and are a combination of physiological age changes with superimposed pathological and physician-induced effects.

Take bone changes for example. While alveolar bone in your jaws naturally waste away if no longer supporting teeth, its decline is more pronounced in the elderly if they lose their teeth and don’t wear dentures. There’s loss of facial height as the lower jaw tends to move up and forward. And due to the decline in a particular enzyme (COX-2) for bone repair, healing of bone tissue is delayed. There are also changes in the elderly’s TMJ, that joint which articulates with the upper jaw.

The elderly’s muscle mass in the face also is reduced and, hence, their biting forces are no longer at maximum. Their oral mucosa exhibit changes over time showing mucosal trauma, mucosal diseases, and salivary gland hypofunction which can alter the clinical appearance and character of the oral tissues. It becomes susceptible to infection and trauma due to decreased immunological response.

It poorly responds to medications taken, and can develop ulcers, lesions, including oral cancer. Sense of smell is altered; foods become tasteless, due to degeneration of taste buds, resulting in reduced appetites. And due to decreased salivary function, the elderly constantly suffer from dry mouth.

Tooth enamel of older people becomes more brittle and susceptible to chipping, cracking and fracture. It darkens as it easily stains absorbing organic material introduced into the mouth. Secondary dentine forms as one ages, resulting in reduction in size to sometimes obliteration of the pulp chamber. The dentine hardens (dentine sclerosis) and the roots become brittle, tending towards translucency. As the pulp ages, it becomes less vascular, less cellular and more fibrotic, resulting in a reduced response to injury and decreased healing potential.

Know Age-Related Dental Changes in West Seattle

The elderly patient who comes to First Impressions here in West Seattle are treated very specially owing to the particular changes in their oral anatomy. Know more when you visit us.