Aging & Dental Health

Couple.Today, Americans are not only living longer — we're also retaining our natural teeth longer than ever before. But this rosy picture isn't free of thorns: Older adults tend to require increasingly complex dental treatments; are often more prone to contracting certain diseases; and sometimes find it challenging to keep up with daily oral health practices.

Yet maintaining good oral hygiene is critically important as we age. When problems occur in the mouth, they can cause difficulty chewing, swallowing, speaking and smiling — basic functions which can affect both physical and social well-being. It's possible that medications prescribed for other diseases can adversely affect a person's oral health; it's also possible that a decline in oral health can worsen existing maladies (such as diabetes), or even cause systemic (whole-body) inflammation. What other special dental issues do older people face — and what can be done about them?

Dental Concerns for Older Adults

If you think cavities are just for kids — think again! A recent study found that nearly one-third of people over 65 had untreated dental caries (cavities). In older people, these are found not only in the crown (chewing surface) of the tooth, but also in the root, which may become exposed due to gum recession. Regular dental checkups are the best way to find and treat dental caries; left untreated, they can cause pain, require more complex procedures, and eventually lead to lost teeth.

Gum disease is another major oral health issue faced by older people — and it's presently the leading cause of tooth loss in adults. The disease is caused by plaque bacteria, which thrive on the sticky biofilm that clings to the surface of teeth when they aren't properly cleaned. Poor-fitting dentures can make the problem worse, as can the presence of certain diseases (such as diabetes or cancer).

Sometimes, decreased mobility (due to arthritis or similar conditions) makes routine brushing and flossing more difficult. Special brushes with larger grips and floss holders can help make daily cleaning easier; additionally, therapeutic mouthrinses may be prescribed. In-office treatments can also be effective in bringing gum disease under control.

Blythe Danner Oral Cancer Video.

Oral cancer is a concern at any age, but it's 7 times more likely to show up in a person over 65 — and it causes more deaths in older Americans than skin cancer does. Early detection offers the best chance at controlling the disease, and improves survival rates significantly. A thorough screening for oral cancer should be a part of every older person's routine dental checkup.

Dry mouth (xerostomia) isn't just an annoyance — it can be harmful to your oral health. Aside from its lubricating qualities, saliva contains beneficial digestive enzymes, acid neutralizers, and bacteria-fighting agents. A number of factors may cause the body to produce less saliva than normal — but in older adults, this problem is often due to side effects from prescription or over-the-counter medications. If you're experiencing chronic dryness of the mouth, it's sometimes possible to change your medication, and/or use products designed to relieve these symptoms.

Oral Hygiene For Life

It was once commonly believed that dental problems and the loss of teeth were an inevitable consequence of aging. But here's the fact: Age itself isn't a risk factor for tooth loss; properly cared for, your teeth can last a lifetime. However, it's true that the mouth does change as you age. How can you give yourself the best chance of keeping your natural teeth? You guessed it: Maintain a regular practice of good oral hygiene!

Brush twice a day with a soft-bristled toothbrush — use one with a special grip, or an electric brush, if it helps. Clean in between your teeth with floss, or another type of interdental cleaner, at least once a day. If you wear dentures, regularly clean and care for them as instructed. Eat healthy foods and drink plenty of water. And don't forget to have regular dental exams so that little problems don't turn into major headaches!

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  • "Dr Steve Manson... Superb! Janese... Top notch manager

    Jan 14, 2016 5/5 stars"
    - Morison, Jacqueline
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    Dec 27, 2015 5/5 Stars"
    -Toure, Elhadji
  • "The stairs will become more difficult as I age.

    Nov 5, 2015"
    - Hogan, Debra
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    Oct 22, 2015 5/5 Stars"
    - Scime, Rose
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    Aug 27, 2015 5/5 Stars"
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    June 27, 2015 5/5 Stars"
    - McEvoy, Joe
  • "Professional staff, make you feel comfortable as you can be in the dental chair. Any questions you have are always answered & explained to the fullest. Taken for your appt. on time.

    Jun 25, 2015 5/5 Stars"
    - Phelps, Ruth
  • "Dr Steve Manson exceeds the standards of excellence in dentistry. We need another ten more of Dr Steve around New York City.

    May 21, 2015 5/5 Stars"
    - Morison, Jacqueline
  • "The Staff is wonderful. Dr. Manson is the best Dentist I ever went to. Does excellent work, and NO PAIN... Hes mine forever. I tell everyone I know to only go to him...He is a professional in every way. 5 STARS ALL THE WAY!!!

    May 8, 2015 5/5 Stars"
    - scime, Rose
  • "I was treated by staff and colleagues very well.

    June 27, 2015 5/5 Stars"
    - Rywak, Tamara
  • "Always feel confident I am getting the best advice possible on any dental situation.

    Mar 24, 2015 4/5 Stars"
    - Phelps, Ruth
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    Aug 5, 2014 5/5 Stars"
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  • "Besides being a great dentist, Dr. Manson is kind and caring.

    Jul 2, 2014 5/5 Stars"
    - Immordino, Rosary
  • "Fantastic dentist; been going to him for 15 years. Very nice and professional receptionist/assistant. Dr. Manson is the best of all professionals: he is meticulous, extremely skilled and has a warm but focused manner. The best old school professionalism with state-of-the art dental care.

    Jun 20, 2014 5/5 stars"
    - DiLeo, Leslie
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    Jun 17, 2014 5/5 Stars"
    - Daly, William
  • "As always Dr. Manson and his assistant Janice are excellent. I travel from eastern Long Island because they are excellent! I have been a patient for approximately 40 years.

    June 12, 2014 5/5 Stars"
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    May 6, 2014 5/5 Stars"
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    Apr 24, 2014 5/5 stars"
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    Apr 21, 2014 5/5 Stars"
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    Mar 11, 2014 5/5 Stars"
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    1/19/2014"
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    11/12/2013"
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    – D.Chu Mun 5/5 Star
  • "I have been going to Dr. Manson's office for 30 years. Starting with his Dad and then moving on to Dr. Steven Manson who is wonderful! I was someone who avoided dentists for many many years because i was fearful but if you do have that fear he will put you completely at ease. I know for a fact that had i not started when i did with him I would more than likely not have a tooth left in my head. I have very soft teeth with lots of decay from bad eating habits and he has fixed them all just perfectly. I do believe my fear came from having teeth pulled which didn't really have to be at a young age so just give him a try, just once, and your fears will be settled. You should also know I do not write reviews normally and that is how strongly i feel you will be happy with this choice. Good Luck and You're Welcome :)

    11/6/2013"
    – Anonymous 5/5 Star
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    10/13/2013"
    N. Ricci 5/5 Star
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    10/11/2013"
    – Immordino, R. 5/5 Sta
  • "I started going there with Dr. Roy Manson and when he retired I now see his son, Steven. They have been the most concerned about caring for you and not causing you any pain which other dentists did cause a great deal of pain in my youth. Very knowledgeable and always trying new and better methods of dentistry. I didn't have to wait long this time either which is a BIG plus.

    10/3/2013"
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    9/26/2013"
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    9/22/2013"
    – Daly, W. 5/5 Star
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    8/23/2013"
    – Cheffolway, L. 5/5 Star
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    8/23/2013"
    - R. Michele Marigliano 5/5 Star
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    7/27/2013"
    –Tavano, C. 5/5 Stars
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    7/5/2013"
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    5/6/2013"
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    5/6/2013"
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  • "Dr. Manson is on my opinion the "Best Dentist" in New York. I have been a patient of Dr Manson fit over 25 years and would recommend him to everyone. As a Dentist he makes his patient feel at home and relaxed. Everyone in the office will make your visit as comfortable as you can be.

    5/1/2013"
    – R. Hidalgo 5/5 Stars