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What can cause oral health problems in older adults?

As people live longer and retain more natural teeth, the complexity of their treatment increases. Older adults are at risk for getting cavities, gum disease and mouth cancer – and these may not cause any pain or discomfort until they are advanced. In addition, people with no natural teeth are at risk for mouth cancer as well as gum problems. Denture wearers need to have their mouth and their dentures checked at least once a year. Everyone needs to see their dentist for a checkup at least once a year.

Anne Fabiny
Geriatric Medicine
Good dental care is often neglected in older adults. That's because many older adults do not have dental insurance and must pay out-of-pocket for all dental services. But oral health problems can affect overall health.

Sometimes a person brushes less often because of trouble gripping the toothbrush. If that's the case, choose a toothbrush designed to accommodate a weak grip, or try padding or lengthening the handle yourself. An electric toothbrush may also be easier to use.

Certain medications and medical treatments, and possibly aging itself, can make saliva flow less freely than normal. That affects tooth and gum health and can cause bad breath. Artificial saliva products, sugarless gum, sucking candies (especially sour flavors), frequent sips of water, and avoidance of caffeine, alcohol, and tobacco can help relieve dry mouth.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.