Frequently Asked Questions About Senior Dental Care
12. I've heard that dental implants are an alternative to dentures. What should I know about implants?
First, you should know that today's older adults are keeping their natural teeth longer. According to a recent survey by the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research, the rate of toothlessness in individuals aged 55 to 64 has dropped 60% since 1960. This is attributed to scientific developments, as well as to a growing awareness of good oral hygiene practices.
Despite this good news, some older adults do suffer from tooth loss and will need dentures, bridges, or an alternative -- such as implants. Dental implants are replacement tooth roots. Implants provide a strong foundation for fixed (permanent) or removable replacement teeth that are made to match your natural teeth.
Not everyone is a candidate for dental implants. Patients should have healthy gums and enough bone to hold the implant. Heavy smokers, people suffering from uncontrolled chronic disorders -- such as diabetes or heart disease -- or patients who have had radiation therapy to the head-neck area need to be evaluated on an individual basis. Talk to your dentist to see if implants are an option for you.
13. I have arthritis in my hands and have difficulty cleaning my teeth. What can you recommend?
There are several adaptations that you can try that should make caring for your teeth easier to accomplish if you have arthritis. To increase the size of the toothbrush handle, try wrapping the handle with tape or insert the handle into a rubber ball or into a bicycle grip handle. To increase the length of the toothbrush handle, tape two tongue depressors, popsicle/ice cream bar sticks, or small plastic or wooden rulers to the toothbrush handle. Another option is to attach a wide elastic band to the toothbrush under which the person would slide their hand. Finally, a battery- or electric-powered toothbrush might be the most appropriate solution, depending on the strength of your grip and your dexterity.
A variety of flossing aids are available from your local drug store. Ask your dentist or dental hygienist which type of product might be best suited for you.