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  Adults & Seniors FAQs

Q: How do hormones affect oral health?

A: Hormonal fluctuations throughout life can affect many tissues, including gum tissue.

    • Puberty and Menstruation: The increase in estrogen can raise the blood flow to the gums and may cause gum sensitivity and lead to a greater reaction to any irritation, including food particles and plaque. During this time, the gums may become swollen, turn red and feel tender.
    • Pregnancy: Hormone levels change considerably during pregnancy. Gingival inflammation during pregnancy affects 60-75% of pregnant women, even those who practice good dental care. Pregnancy changes the tissues in all areas of the body, including the mouth, and breaks down the natural barriers that prevent infection. Hormonal and vascular changes exaggerate the inflammation; sometimes it becomes localized and presents as a sore known as a ‘pregnancy tumor.’ If the sore is very large, it must be removed; if left untreated during the pregnancy, it remains after the pregnancy. More frequent professional cleanings during the second or early third trimester helps prevent gingivitis.
    • Menopause and Post-Menopause: A woman who is menopausal or post-menopausal may experience a change in her mouth. She may notice discomfort in the mouth, including dry mouth, pain and burning sensations in the gum tissue, altered taste and greater sensitivity to hot and cold foods and beverages.
    • Oral Contraceptives: Since oral contraceptives contain estrogen and progesterone, they imitate pregnancy. With the body believing it is pregnant, women taking birth control pills may experience gingivitis.

Q: How can I minimize my risk for cavities?

A: The causes of tooth decay are the same for all ages. Decay happens when the bacteria in plaque feeds on the sugar in our diet.

Many older adults grew up without fluoride in the water, which means they are more likely to have decay around fillings. Decay of the tooth root is also common in older adults because when the gums recede this exposes the root surface which decays easier than harder tooth enamel.

Preventative maintenance helps keep teeth healthier. This important health activity includes:

    • Brushing and flossing teeth twice daily
    • Using toothpaste containing fluoride
    • Eating a healthy diet and limiting sweets
    • Avoiding risk factors like alcohol and tobacco
    • Visiting a dentist at least every six months

Q: How do I take care of my dentures?

A: If you are starting to lose, or are missing, some of your natural teeth, you may want to think about adding to your smile with dentures. Dentures help with not only your appearance, but also by supporting your cheeks and lips. Dentures also aid in speaking, chewing and swallowing.

If you already have dentures you should know that taking care of your dentures is vital to your overall oral health. Keep them in good condition by:

    • Cleaning dentures over a water-filled sink to prevent damage if they are dropped
    • Placing a small amount of liquid hand soap on the denture brush and brush all surfaces, including the clasps on a partial denture
    • Storing them dry in a denture cup
    • Wetting dentures with water when inserting to prevent discomfort

It is important to visit your dentist regularly, even if you no longer have your natural teeth. Your dentist will examine your mouth to check for any difficulties including problems with the tongue, the joints of the jaws, and screen you for disease.

Q: As a caregiver how can I help my aging parent with their oral health?

A: Daily mouth care improves the overall health of seniors. This regular health activity helps to decrease dental disease. This assists in reducing the risk of serious health problems, such as aspiration pneumonia and cardiovascular disease, and may assist with controlling diabetes. Seniors facing challenges with physical and cognitive deterioration may require support with basic daily care. If you have an aging parent or are a caregiver consider the following:

    • A senior should use a toothbrush with soft bristles
    • When doing the brushing, rather than supervising, stand behind the senior to ensure they are comfortable
    • With the information provided by dentists, conduct periodic checks between dental visits
    • Dentures need to be cleaned each day, with denture cleaner not toothpaste. As well, examine the inside of the mouth for problems
    • Regular dental visits will also aid in spotting trouble signs or sources of pain. Attend the dentist with the elder in your care. Provide the dentist with as much information as possible on medical history and medications

Q: Does our mouth change as we get older?

A: Just as aging changes different systems within the body, the oral cavity also undergoes a number of changes.

It is possible that you may experience certain medical conditions and differences:

Darker teeth

    • You may notice that it is becoming tougher to keep your teeth white. This could be for a couple of reasons:Plaque builds faster and in greater amounts as we age
    • Dentin naturally changes and causes your teeth to look darker

Loss of taste

Losing your sense of taste is common with age. Contributing factors to a decrease in sense of taste could be diseases, medications and possibly dentures.

Dry mouth

When the saliva glands do not work properly, dry mouth may develop. Saliva is essential to good dental health as it keeps your mouth moist, washes away food and neutralizes the acids produced by plaque. Dry mouth can damage your teeth and make it difficult to eat, swallow, taste and even speak. Talk to your dentist about methods to restore moisture.

Contact the Alberta Dental Association

Please note the Association does not have a physical office location at this time.

Mailing Address:
#201,10654 82 Avenue NW
Edmonton, Alberta, T6E 2A7


Telephone:  780.701.8668  (Edmonton Local)
Toll-Free 1.800.783.0122

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