Oral Health and why it’s Important as a Senior


by Dr. Kate Sudikoff, iDental Dilworth 

The bottom line: We need our teeth to eat! And we need to eat in order to receive nutrition and remain healthy. This is even more critical as we age, when other systems start to break down.

Did you know that your oral health can often be a reflection of your overall health? As a dental provider I am constantly amazed at how much information our mouths give us about overall health… you just have to look for it. At iDental, we look indepth at your oral health. My team and I screen for sleep apnea and sleep disorders, TMJ problems, periodontal disease, possible systemic issues and oral cancer.

Did you know that conditions such as Vertigo and ringing in the ears can be related to your bite? Your teeth are just a small part of your overall oral health.

As a general dentist I treat a wide variety of patients – young to old. All patients have different types of life experiences and needs. As a dental professional, it is my job to help you maintain or attain a healthy mouth.We are all living longer, more active lifestyles. A healthy mouth contributes to a healthy body.

Did you know that the same bacteria that builds plaque around our teeth has been linked to the plaque that causes heart disease? Gum disease is a low grade infection that causes bleeding and bone loss. Plaque mixes with saliva and creates tartar, a tenacious hard calcified substance that builds up like cement on your teeth that cannot be brushed off. Without a professional cleaning, the tartar keeps building up, irritating the gums, collecting more bacteria, and eating away at the bone supporting your teeth. Did you know that the #1 cause of tooth loss is gum disease, not decay?

How important is it to get your teeth cleaned regularly by a dentist?

It’s only important if you want to keep yourself and your teeth healthy. Your hygienist will use ultrasonic scalers to break up and disintegrate the tartar. Getting this rough, hard buildup off your teeth lets the gums heal and regenerate so that they can be healthy again. It’s like having a splinter stuck in your finger… until you remove the splinter, the natural healing process of the body can’t fully occur.

How often do I need a professional cleaning?

Most people think that getting their teeth cleaned every year is enough. The truth is – for 99% of the population – once a year is not enough. As we age, just like every other part of our body, our mouth becomes compromised. You may have been able to sneak by with one cleaning a year when you were in your 20s, but by the time you reach your 50s, your mouth has changed a lot. You have lost bone around your teeth as part of the aging process.

In addition, general wear and tear and the stress your bite puts on your teeth can cause problems. More than likely you have more restorations, fillings and crowns than you did when you were 20. Perhaps you have lost a tooth along the way, causing your bite to shift and your teeth to rotate. Perhaps you have a denture that collects more plaque and irritates your gums.

All these things can make teeth harder to clean and maintain. All these things play a role in determining the frequency needed for a professional cleaning to maintain your oral health. For some patients it is every 6 months. For others, I recommend every 3 months. Each individual is different and my goal is for you to keep your teeth and maintain or improve your oral health. The only way to determine that is to collect information such as X-rays, gum measurements and a thorough oral exam. Facts help me determine the best treatment plan for you as an individual.

Other factors like medications and systemic diseases – such as Diabetes and Arthritis – also influences our mouths. Dry mouth is a huge problem for a lot of patients who are on multiple medications. Decreased saliva means that your teeth are not being rinsed throughout the day. A long term effect of dry mouth is that your teeth are at a much larger risk for decay. Aging adults usually have more root exposure. The root is not covered in enamel (the hard glass-like substance that covers our teeth) but rather with cementum, a much softer coating. Cementum cannot protect the tooth from decay like enamel does. Hence our roots quickly decay.

Seniors have three factors that make it difficult to keep teeth healthy:

  1. more root exposure
  2. decreased saliva flow form medications
  3. arthritis, which makes cleaning and flossing harder

Topical fluoride is a great tool to help protect against root decay. After a professional cleaning this can be applied as a varnish and it will give up to 3 months of protection.

If you would like to do things differently, please give our office a call. We offer a wide range of services including: General dentistry, dentures and partials, including “face lift “ dentures, implants and laser gum treatments, oral appliances that treat vertigo, headaches, neck pain and sleep apnea, cosmetic veneers and crowns, full mouth reconstructions, orthodontics.

Information about our practice and Dr. Kate Sudikoff can be found at www.identaldilworth.com or call us at 704-632-9922.