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Restoring Your Smile: Types Of Dentistry Options And Products For Seniors

Affinity Health, a leading provider of high-quality health coverage, highlights various dentistry options that are particularly useful for seniors.

“According to the National Institutes of Health, dental care is crucial for seniors as they face unique challenges when it comes to maintaining oral health due to various factors, including decades of wear and tear, medical conditions, and the natural ageing process,” says Murray Hewlett, CEO of Affinity Health.

“The good news is through proper care and modern dental technologies and treatments; seniors can enjoy a functional and aesthetic smile throughout their golden years.”

Here are various dental treatments that are especially beneficial for seniors.

Dentures

Dentures are custom-fitted, removable appliances that can replace missing teeth. There are two main types of dentures: full dentures (for when all teeth are missing) and partial dentures (for when some natural teeth remain).

Dentures are made from impressions of the patient’s mouth. The process begins with the dentist taking precise measurements and moulds of the oral cavity. Once the dentures are crafted, the patient returns for a fitting. The dentist may make adjustments to ensure the dentures fit comfortably and functionally. Removable dentures can be secured with adhesive to enhance stability.

While seniors may have reservations about dentures, it’s important to note that modern dentures are designed with your comfort and natural appearance in mind. They are more comfortable and natural-looking than ever before, making them an excellent option for seniors who prefer a non-invasive, more cost-effective solution.

Implants

Unlike dentures, implants are a permanent and ‘fixed’ solution for missing teeth.

The implant process involves inserting a titanium post into the jawbone, which acts as a sturdy root for the artificial tooth placed on top.

Implants are ideal for seniors looking for a durable solution to tooth loss. However, they may not be suitable for some seniors due to insufficient bone density to support the implants, underlying health conditions that impair healing, or medications that affect bone growth. Implants can also be pricey. In the above cases, your dentist may discuss alternative options, such as a fixed bridge.

Root Canal Therapy

Seniors might think tooth decay is only a problem for younger people, but it can occur at any age. Root decay is prevalent among older adults because the gums tend to recede with age, exposing the roots of the teeth to plaque.

Root canal therapy may be needed for seniors with severely decayed or infected teeth. In root canal treatment, the tooth’s injured pulp is removed, cleaned, and disinfected before being filled and sealed. The procedure preserves the tooth, which is beneficial for maintaining the natural alignment of surrounding teeth and normal biting force and sensation.

Veneers

Veneers are an excellent choice for seniors who want to make minor cosmetic improvements to their smile without undergoing more involved treatments.

Dental veneers are thin, custom-made shells of tooth-coloured materials designed to improve teeth’ shape, colour, size, length, and appearance. A dentist removes a small amount of enamel to fit veneers, takes an impression of the tooth, and adheres to the custom-made veneer using a special cement. The process is typically completed in a few visits.

Typically, porcelain or composite resin is used to make veneers.

Porcelain veneers are the most often used because of their strength, durability, and realistic appearance. They can replicate the light-reflecting qualities of natural teeth and are stain-resistant.

The substance used to create composite resin veneers is a tooth-coloured resin resembling dental filling material. Composite veneers are less costly than porcelain and may be completed in a single appointment, but they are less stain-resistant and less long-lasting.

Surgical Gum Graft

Tooth sensitivity is often the result of tooth enamel erosion or gum recession, which exposes the dentin underneath the enamel.

When eating or drinking anything hot, cold, sweet, or very acidic, this exposure may cause pain or discomfort.

One way to treat sensitive teeth is to use toothpaste made especially for them. This toothpaste can prevent sensation from travelling from the tooth surface to the nerve. Fluoride treatments could also strengthen the enamel.

In cases where gum recession is significant in seniors, a surgical gum graft may help cover the exposed root and reduce sensitivity, or dentin sealers may be applied to the exposed root surface.

Dry Mouth Gel

Dry mouth, or xerostomia, is prevalent among older adults, often as a side effect of over 500 medications, including those for allergies, asthma, hypertension, cholesterol, pain, anxiety, and Alzheimer’s disease. It can also result from radiation therapy and diseases such as Sjögren’s syndrome.

A dry mouth raises the risk of tooth decay and gum disease because saliva cannot neutralise acids and wash away food particles and debris. Your dentist may recommend gels to boost saliva production or to imitate the benefits of saliva by keeping your mouth moist.

Antibacterial Mouthwash

Various factors can cause chronic bad breath or halitosis in seniors, and these are often more complex due to ageing-related changes and associated health conditions. Conditions such as diabetes, sinus infections, kidney or liver problems, and not cleaning dentures properly can contribute to bad breath.

Your dentist can discuss improving bad breath, including regular brushing, flossing, and using an antibacterial mouthwash.

Professional in-office Whitening

Tooth discolouration in seniors is common and can occur for many reasons, including diet (coffee, tea, red wine), tobacco use, or side effects. In most cases, tooth discolouration is simply a result of ageing.

The outermost layer of the tooth (enamel) is naturally white. Over the years, this layer can wear down and become thinner. As the enamel thins, the underlying dentin, a darker, yellowish material that makes up the bulk of the tooth, becomes more visible. This change makes the teeth appear more yellow.

As people age, their gums also often recede, and this process can expose the roots of the teeth, which are covered by cementum rather than enamel. Cementum is more susceptible to discolouration than enamel, so exposure to tooth roots often leads to discolouration near the gum line.

Professional teeth whitening, under a dentist’s supervision, is a highly effective method for removing or reducing stains. This can significantly improve the appearance of your smile. By maintaining good oral hygiene and limiting stain-causing foods and drinks, you can prevent further staining and keep your smile bright and healthy.

Conclusion

As we age, our dental care requirements evolve. Seniors encounter distinct challenges in maintaining oral health, but modern advancements in dental technology and techniques have greatly facilitated the ability of older adults to preserve or rejuvenate their smiles. Addressing oral health issues is crucial for maintaining seniors’ oral health and overall well-being.

About Affinity Health

Affinity Health is South Africa’s leading health coverage provider, offering you a range of options at affordable rates, including access to the widest national provider network. We understand the importance of having medical insurance that meets your needs, budget, and lifestyle. Our healthcare products are designed to protect you and your family when it matters the most. We strive to give our clients peace of mind and the highest standard of service. For more information, follow us on FacebookTwitter, and Instagram.

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