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Four Oral Health Issues Seniors Face

Oral health is an important and often overlooked component of an older person’s general health and well-being. Dr. Kevin Hayes and Dr. Sandy Hayes and our team know that for many of our older patients, oral health can become an issue when arthritis or other neurological problems render them unable to brush or floss their teeth as effectively as they once did. Today, we thought we would discuss four common oral health issues our older patients face and how they can avoid them:

Cavities: It’s not just children who get tooth decay—oral decay is a common disease in people 65 and older. Ninety-two percent of seniors 65 and older have had dental caries in their permanent teeth, according to the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research. The risk for tooth decay increases because many older adults don’t go to the dentist as often as they used to, thus cavities go undetected and untreated for longer than they should. Keeping regular appointments with Dr. Kevin Hayes and Dr. Sandy Hayes is the key to getting cavities treated in a timely manner.

Difficulty eating: Oral health problems, whether from missing teeth, cavities, dentures that don’t fit, gum disease, or infection, can cause difficulty eating and can force people to adjust the quality, consistency, and balance of their diet.

Dry mouth: Also called xerostomia, dry mouth is a common issue for a lot of seniors. Our friends at the Oral Cancer Foundation estimate that 20 percent of elderly people suffer from dry mouth, which means the reduced flow of saliva (saliva plays a crucial role in preventing tooth decay). Many seniors are on multiple medications for a variety of chronic illnesses or conditions. Common medications taken that may cause dry mouth are decongestants, antihistamines, blood pressure medications, pain pills, incontinence medications, antidepressants, diuretics, muscle relaxers, and Parkinson’s disease medications. To help counter this, we suggest drinking lots of fluids and limiting your intake of caffeine and alcohol. We also encourage you to check with Dr. Kevin Hayes and Dr. Sandy Hayes during your next visit if you think your medications are causing your mouth to feel dry.

Gum Disease: Gum (periodontal) disease is an infection of the gums and surrounding tissues that hold teeth in place. While gum disease affects people of all ages, it typically becomes worse as people age. In its early stages, gum disease is painless, and most people have no idea that they have it. In more advanced cases, however, gum disease can cause sore gums and pain when chewing.

Gum disease, which can range from simple gum inflammation to serious disease, is usually caused by poor brushing and flossing habits that allow dental plaque to build up on the teeth. Plaque that is not removed can harden and form tartar that brushing simply does not clean. Only a professional cleaning at our office can remove tartar. The two forms of gum disease are gingivitis and periodontitis. In gingivitis, the gums become red, swollen, and can bleed easily; in periodontitis, gums pull away from the teeth and form spaces that become infected.

Proper brushing, flossing, and visiting our office regularly can prevent gum disease. Seniors with limited dexterity who have trouble gripping a toothbrush should ask Dr. Kevin Hayes and Dr. Sandy Hayes about modifying a handle for easier use or switching to a battery-powered toothbrush.

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patient testimonials

"I had multiple bad experiences as a child with the dentist. As a result, I have feared going to the dentist office for years. Dr. Kevin and Sandy are so gentle and caring that I still bring my children to them and we live almost two hours away!" ~ Tasha W.

patient testimonials

"Since age 7, I have been extremely fearful of going to the dentist. It was this age that I was told by a previous dentist that I would eventually have to have a root canal and my front tooth capped due to a bicycling accident. This gave me a scary image and sounded painful. When Dr. Sandy told me a root canal was needed, although it was 18 years later, it still sounded scary and painful. Then I was told about sedation. The entire day of the appointment I don’t recall much. When I woke up, the "scary" part was already over and I felt refreshed with zero pain or discomfort. I was completely satisfied with my smile and the results! As for the staff, each person I was in contact with was excellent in accommodating each need that I had and made me feel like I was a part of their family. I would 100% recommend Hayes Family Dentistry and sedation to anyone. The entire experience was, in one word, amazing!" ~ Kellie A.

patient testimonials

"No pain was felt. New found respect for dentistry. Recovery was a lot easier. Would not see any other dentist. Would recommend Hayes Family Dentistry to anyone and everyone. Very, very pleased with my experience and even brought my wife here. All I can say is WOW!" ~ Jason R.

patient testimonials

"I have been extremely afraid to go to the dentist. I had a bad experience about three years ago where my jaw got locked open during a procedure. For about an hour they had to do warm moist compresses and massage my temporal joint to get my jaw unlocked. I was extremely sore for about three and a half weeks. This created a fear of going back to the dentist. My experience with sedation: when I came in that morning I was not anxious about the appointment because I took a pill that morning that helped calm me. I was greeted, they got me comfortable, and I watched a pleasant video about ocean life. I don’t remember anything about that appointment. My next memory was of waking up refreshed and ready to go the next day. I didn’t have any soreness and didn’t have to worry about what I ate because of my joints being sore. It was the most pleasant experience I have ever had at a dental office. I will definitely have sedation again for any kind of future treatment." ~ Sara H.

patient testimonials

"Are you afraid to smile because you’re ashamed of your smile? Hayes Family Dentistry can help. Are you saying, “But I’m more afraid of going to a dentist than people seeing my smile?” Hayes Family Dentistry can really help; they helped me. Being afraid of the dentist is nothing to be ashamed of—it’s called dental phobia and you’re not alone. A lot of people suffer from it. But now thanks to sedation dentistry, you don’t have to suffer anymore." ~ Tony "Gator" Harrison
(Formerly with Country Giant)

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We love to give back to the community

We love to give back to the community in which we live and work. We provide educational presentations to local preschools, organizational groups like the boy scouts and church programs. Especially rewarding is our involvement with “Teen Challenge” and “Smiles from the Heart.” We are passionate about helping people who may be less fortunate or find themselves in difficult situations.

Hayes Family Dentistry, PC