Health conditions that are common among elderly people can affect dentures, gums and overall oral health, says Dr. James Rodriguez, DDS, a Staten Island, New York dentist who has been practicing general dentistry for more than 22 years. Here's how five common health problems can impact denture wearers:
Diabetes – Diabetes accelerates gum disease. People with poorly controlled blood sugar are at significantly greater risk for severe, progressive gum disease. And, if a diabetic senior has gum disease, it may cause painful inflammation that causes dentures to not fit properly.
Osteoporosis – When a senior has osteoporosis, the jaw bone can deteriorate significantly, changing the shape of the jaw, which causes ill-fitting dentures. As the jawbone shrinks, so do gum tissues (sometimes referred to as ridges). Ridges can shrink up to a quarter-inch in 10 years.
Medications – There are approximately 500 commonly prescribed medications, including blood pressure medications and anti-depressants that cause dry mouth, or xerostomia. With a substantial lack of saliva, the denture wearer's ability to function comfortably is seriously compromised. Medications can have a direct effect on the gums by creating an exaggerated response to plaque and resulting in gum overgrowth. Immuno-suppressants and other disease-fighting medications may reduce the body's ability to combat infection, increasing the risk for periodontal disease.
Cancer treatment – Chemotherapy and radiation therapy of the head and neck can have serious oral side effects. Side effects can include dry mouth, altered sense of taste, mucositis (inflammation of the insides of the cheeks and lips), gum swelling (which can interfere with the fit of dentures) and jaw stiffness.
Arthritis – Medical conditions that affect movement, such as arthritis in the hands and fingers, make daily care of dentures difficult, if not impossible, to perform. It's essential that patients who have difficulty brushing see their dentist regularly for thorough cleanings and exams.