March 16, 2019
When we become adults, there are many things we’re pretty eager to put behind us – stuff like homework, acne, and curfews. Don’t make the mistake of thinking cavities are one of those things, though. Adults, and especially senior citizens, are susceptible to root cavities.
Unlike cavities that affect the crown (white part) of your teeth, root cavities affect your tooth roots. Your crowns are covered with enamel, which is quite resistant to decay and other damage. The hardest substance in the human body, it also contains minerals that are natural cavity fighters. In contrast, your roots are protected by a substance called cementum, which is far softer than enamel. Because of this, root cavities spread more rapidly than other cavities.
Tooth roots should be protected by your gums. However, receding gums can leave you vulnerable to root cavities. Dr. Steven Airey will look for signs of gum recession during your dental exams. If necessary, Dr. Airey can perform a gum graft, surgically grafting tissue to the areas where your gums are receding.
If your teeth appear longer than usual or your tooth roots are visible, don’t wait for your next exam. Call us ASAP at 828-355-5673 to schedule an appointment.
Why Seniors Are More Susceptible to Root Cavities
Why are seniors more susceptible to root cavities than younger folks? There are several reasons:
- As we get older, the cementum can thin and wear away, leaving your roots less protected.
- A large number of seniors have gum disease, a common cause of gum recession.
- Seniors are also more prone to dry mouth, largely due to medications they may take. More than 500 medications can cause dry mouth. A shortage of saliva makes it hard for your mouth to fight decay.
How We’ll Treat Root Cavities
Like other cavities, treating root cavities involves removing decay with a dental drill and placing a filling. If root decay has gotten under your gumline, Dr. Airey will need to lift your gums in order to reach the cavity. He may also apply fluoride varnish to your teeth to make them more resistant to cavities.
If you have gum disease, Dr. Airey will perform a deep-cleaning treatment called scaling and root planing that removes bacteria from under your gums. In addition, he may prescribe an antibiotic, in the form of a pill, gel, or mouth rinse. He can also suggest products that should help relieve dry mouth. He may also want to review any medications you are taking; in some cases, your doctor may be able to prescribe a similar medication that doesn’t cause dry mouth.
How You Can Help Prevent Root Cavities
Like all cavities, it’s easier to prevent root cavities than to treat them. Our recommendations:
- Brush twice a day with a soft-bristled toothbrush. Make sure you brush all of the way to your gumline. Use small circular motions – and be gentle, as overly vigorous brushing can cause gums to recede.
- Floss at least once a day, so you can remove plaque from in between teeth where your brush can’t reach.
- Avoid sugary, sticky, and acidic foods as much as you can. All of these substances combine with bacteria in your mouth to damage enamel and cause cavities.
- To avoid dry mouth, drink plenty of water and use sugar-free lozenges or gum to spur saliva production.
- See us every six months for a professional dental cleaning.
A Word About Paying for Dental Care After Retirement
Regular dental exams and cleanings are important, because they help prevent cavities and gum disease. In addition, they help us find problems like root cavities in the early stages while they are still relatively easy and inexpensive to treat with a simple filling. Many seniors may be tempted to skip these services after retirement, as Medicare doesn’t cover this kind of routine dental care.
Don’t wait until after you retire to begin thinking about how you will cover your dental expenses. You might consider purchasing supplemental dental insurance through an organization like AARP. Another option is participating in our Appalachian Dental Care membership plan. You’ll pay a flat annual fee and will receive:
- Two dental exams and cleanings, with X-rays when needed
- One emergency exam, if needed
- 20 percent off other treatments
A perio plan, for those prone to gum disease, includes three perio maintenance cleanings. Any of our plans can be financed through monthly payments.
To schedule an exam or cleaning, or for more information on our membership plan, call our Boone, NC dental office today at 828-355-5673. You can also contact us online to set up an appointment with Dr. Airey.