Older Adults and Decay

Older adult patients are at risk for decay for several reasons:

  • Many older adults live alone and do not eat regular meals. If a patient snacks a lot, they probably keep sweets and starches on their teeth for long periods of time, causing decay.
  • Older dental patients get gum recession. This exposes the roots of the teeth and the roots of teeth decay very quickly because there is no enamel on teeth roots to prevent decay.
  • Older patients may lose dexterity in their hands and have a difficult time brushing and flossing.
  • Older patients often develop dry mouth. They keep a mint or piece of hard candy in their mouth to stimulate saliva flow, and this causes decay.
  • If the older adult is in a nursing home, the staff may not have the time or education to make sure the patient cleans their teeth. If you have a parent in a nursing home and can only visit them occasionally, help them brush their teeth when you do visit and encourage the staff to help them clean your parents teeth.

When we see one of our older adult patients start to get decay on the roots of their teeth, we get them started using fluoride gel. We recommend special trays for this daily fluoride application, and the trays only have to stay in the mouth for 5 minutes. Using fluoride in trays will dramatically cut down on decay in a patient with exposed roots or a dry mouth.