In this day and age, three quarters of people over 65 retain at least some of their natural teeth. However, our rate of oral health problems still goes up significantly the older we get. Here, our Lethbridge dentists offer advice for keeping your mouth healthy as you age.
In general, older people are more likely to suffer from diseases and disorders of the oral cavity, including gum disease, dental decay, oral cancer, mouth infections, and tooth loss.
However, this doesn’t mean that you have to resign yourself to having poor oral health in your later years. With good oral hygiene, regular visits to the dentist, and a healthy diet, you will have a much better chance of keeping your mouth healthy for decades to come.
To keep your mouth looking and feeling younger than it is, start by following the tips below.
Make Efforts to Reduce Wear and Tear
A lifetime of chewing, crunching, and gnawing, and of consuming acidic foods and drinks, will inevitably wear on the protective outer enamel on your teeth.
The result of this wear and tear is that your teeth will be more vulnerable to oral bacteria and plaque, and more likely to develop cavities, as well as cracks and chips, which will compromise their structural integrity.
To minimize the effects of wear and tear, cavity prevention — brushing, flossing, and regular professional cleanings at the dentist's office — are key.
It will also be helpful to use toothpastes and mouthwashes that contain enamel-strengthening ingredients like fluoride.
Finally, avoid using your teeth on things they were not designed to bite. Don’t use them to tear into packages, and break your habit of chewing on pen lids or your fingernails.
Take Care of the Supporting Structures
To maintain healthy teeth, it is essential to keep their supporting structures – your gums – healthy as well, to prevent the development of periodontal (gum) disease.
Periodontal disease is characterized by gum recession, loosening teeth, and jawbone deterioration, and is the primary cause of tooth loss among mature adults.
Gum disease forms when plaque builds up unchecked along the gumline. While aging doesn’t cause gum disease, serious symptoms often only become apparent in patients’ later years because of its slow progression.
Fortunately, periodontal disease is easily preventable in the same ways that tooth decay is: twice-daily brushing and flossing, and regular visits to the dentist for a checkup and professional cleaning.
And if you have already developed gum disease, it is also treatable with gum therapy at our Lethbridge dental office.
Many medications taken by seniors can cause dry mouth, which in turn can result in oral health problems.
A sufficient salivary flow plays a key role in keeping your mouth healthy. Saliva helps you chew and digest your food properly, helps keep your breath neutral, and washes away oral bacteria and plaque that would otherwise build up in your mouth.
To help counteract this, drink plenty of water, chew sugarless gum, and avoid alcohol, caffeine, and cigarettes.
Smoking causes a host of health problems, and it is also a leading cause of oral cancer.
For mature adults who have been smoking for many years in particular, smoking can increase the risk of developing gum disease because it increases the buildup of plaque. It also dries the mouth and causes teeth to become yellow or brown in appearance.
If you are a smoker with concerns about your oral health, one of the best things you can do is quit.