Seniors and Tooth Cavities

Seniors and Tooth Cavities

Tooth decay and gum disease are the most common reason for tooth loss. With age, the risk of tooth decay, as well as gum disease, increases.

Many older people have root cavities. Unlike tooth cavities in the visible part of the tooth, root cavities occur below the gum line and can be extremely destructive for the entire tooth structure. Remember that while the crown of the tooth is protected by a hard enamel layer, the roots are only covered by a thin material (cementum).

Gums also protect the roots. However, if the gums shrink back or recede, due to gum disease, it can expose the root surface. This can make the roots highly vulnerable to decay. A root cavity can rapidly damage the interior pulp, weakening the tooth and causing its loss.

To prevent root decay, root cavities should be detected and treated quickly. Your dentist would remove the decayed part and fill the cavity. Unfortunately, root cavities are more difficult to access and minor gum surgery may be needed to expose the cavity to treat it.

Like any other form of tooth decay, the best strategy is to prevent root cavities by –

  • daily brushing and flossing to remove dental plaque
  • regularly visiting the dentist for thorough cleanings and checkups; the dentist may recommend preventive rinses, or even apply fluoride to vulnerable tooth surfaces to protect them

Any signs of gum disease, such as swollen, reddened or bleeding gums, indicate you should see your dentist as soon as possible.

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