We only have one set of adult teeth and they are meant to last us a lifetime. Trauma, genetics and other factors sometimes make this impossible. But, for the most part, good oral health and habits are enough to make your teeth go the distance with you as you gracefully age. As we age, natural changes occur in our general health. Below are tips from Clayton dental clinic, Folden W. Lee, DDS, on how to work with these changes to keep oral health care in check as we age.
Poor Oral Health = Poor Overall Health
A healthy diet is essential for healthy living. Fruits, vegetables, protein and healthy fats help keep both your body and teeth strong. Bacteria that causes plaque and tooth decay feed on sugary substances. Limiting sugar helps decreases your chances of diabetes, protect your teeth from decay and helps keep your skin firm. Excess sugar likes to eat at collagen, a protein that provides strength, structure, and elasticity to our skin. For a great example on what a well-balanced meal should look like for older adults, visit Tufts University My Plate for Older Adults.
Combat Dry Mouth
Dry mouth (xerostomia) is typically a side effect of chemotherapy and/or certain medications but is also part of the natural aging process. Dry mouth not only makes it difficult to speak, swallow, taste and eat but it also increases your chances of tooth decay. Saliva helps clear food debris, bacteria, acids and plaque which are all contributors to tooth decay. To help combat dry mouth, increase your fluid intake, chew sugar-free gum and suck on sugar-free candy. If you believe it is the medication causing your dry mouth, talk to your doctor about possible drug substitutions.
Disease & Decay Prevention
According to the Academy of General Dentistry, 25% of adults between the ages of 65 and 74 have gum disease. Gum disease can lead to severe tooth decay, bleeding gums, gum recession and tooth loss. Gum recession exposes the root surfaces making them more vulnerable to decay. This surface is softer than tooth enamel and therefore decays easier and quicker.
Bad habits such as smoking, excess alcohol intake and tobacco use significantly increase your chances of oral cancer. Middle-aged and older adults who participate in these habits, typically have done so for quite some time making their age the more vulnerable group.
For help with disease and decay prevention, the first tip is to keep up with your regular scheduled dental visits. Each of the above diseases can be significantly reduced or in the case of oral cancer, caught early with regular dental visits. Oral cancer is difficult to spot on your own in the early stages. During your regular dental visit, your dentist will screen for signs of oral cancer through a head and neck exam. If spotted early, oral cancer has a tremendous survival rate, but not catching it until later stages can be detrimental. In addition, there is no substitute for brushing twice a day, flossing and using an antibacterial mouthwash. Doing this daily in conjunction with six-month dental visits will help keep disease at bay and promote good oral hygiene overall.
Clayton, NC Tooth Loss
If tooth loss has already occurred, it is important to visit your Clayton dentist as soon as you can. Tooth loss and gum disease are not something to be embarrassed by. When you have missing teeth, bone loss and shifting teeth may occur which can quickly age your face prematurely. Consult with your dentist on your options. Dentures, dental implants or dental bridges may be an excellent way for you to restore your smile and health.