We all know that dental health habits are important at any age, but as we grow older, we may face more oral health concerns than we did in our earlier years. This is why it’s important to establish and maintain great dental hygiene routines and to foster a relationship with a great dentist to help meet dental challenges as they come.
Aging and Dental Health
What happens to our teeth as we get older? The fact of the matter is, as our bodies age, we sometimes find ourselves dealing with ailments that were not a problem in our youth. This can apply to our teeth and gums as well. Most of these dental problems that can arise in seniors are easy to identify, resolve, and even prevent when you know what signs and symptoms to be on the lookout for. Here are a few things to be aware of when it comes to senior oral health.
Attrition simply means wear and tear, something your teeth see a lot of over the years as they help you chew your food, speak, and function normally. Years of use, eating, grinding, and general aging can take their toll on your teeth. Also as your healthy tooth enamel wears down over time, they leave your teeth more susceptible to decay and cavities.
Aging in and of itself does not necessarily make the symptoms of dry mouth more likely; however, certain factors that come along with it can, such as chronic conditions, medications you may take, and so on. If you are experiencing dry mouth, it can be indicative of issues you’ll need to address with your dentist.
Gum disease happens to be one of the leading causes of tooth loss in adults. Also referred to as periodontal disease, this dental issue is caused by plaque forming on the teeth, and being left untreated. Gum disease symptoms include red, puffy, or bleeding gums, consistently bad breath, pain, and tooth sensitivity, all of which can be prevented by diligent oral care. Gum disease is also reversible when detected and treated early.
Some also find that tooth sensitivity is more of an issue as they age. Gums naturally recede over time, and that can leave areas of tooth exposed that are not well-protected by enamel. Sometimes sensitivity can be an indication of a bigger problem such as a cavity or a cracked or fractured tooth.
Tooth Root Decay
Often as a result of gum disease, the roots of your teeth can become exposed as gums recede over time. This can cause tooth decay to develop at an increased rate, which can then lead to a whole host of other dental problems that will require the attention of your dentist.
Tips for Senior Oral Health
Of course, maintaining oral health for seniors looks a lot like it does for folks at any age, and keeping your teeth and gums in prime condition just takes a little bit of effort. Combat dental problems that can become more likely with age through the following practices:
- Brush and floss daily! You should be brushing your teeth at least twice each day for at least two minutes using an FDA-approved toothpaste that contains fluoride. Floss at least once per day too.
- See your dentist regularly. Don’t skip those dental check ups. Regular dental exams and x-rays are a critical part of maintaining your oral health, and preventative care is always the best kind.
- Use an antibacterial mouthwash. Mouthwash might not be part of your regular oral care routine, but maybe it should be. Swishing with an oral rinse can help reduce the build-up of plaque while killing bacteria that can lead to other issues. Plus, it leaves you with fresh breath!
- Avoid tobacco use. The use of tobacco products has been linked to an increased risk of oral and throat cancer, as well as many other serious health conditions. Chewing tobacco can even lead to more decay in the mouth.
- Be mindful of sugar intake. Candy, soda, and sugary, starchy snacks can also contribute to tooth decay. Be aware of how often you indulge in these items, and when you do, try to brush your teeth shortly thereafter.
- Up your calcium intake. The American Dental Association suggests that older adults need 1,000 mg of calcium per day to prevent osteoporosis, which can, of course, affect the bones surrounding your teeth.
- Take care of your dentures. If you wear dentures, it’s important to remember that they require special care. Make sure you carefully follow your dentist’s instructions regarding how to clean and care for your dentures, and reach out if you have any problems.
Our team at Tedford Family Dentistry is here to support families in their oral health regardless of age. We offer preventative dental care for children, adults, and senior adults, and we want to help you achieve your greatest possible oral health at every age! Contact our team to schedule an exam or cleaning, or to address any dental issues you may be experiencing.