How Your Age Affects Your Dental Health
HOW AGING AFFECTS YOUR ORAL HEALTH
Getting older can be a great time in your life — you finally retire to spend more time with the people you love and travel around the world. Make the most of your senior years by taking the time to avoid common oral health problems that could slow you down. After the age of 55, you are at greater risk for many issues (for example, dry mouth, tooth decay, and gum disease), but these can be avoided with a good dental hygiene routine at home and regular trips to your dentist in. To help prepare you for how your oral health can change as you get older, our staff at shares some of the most common dental problems we see in patients over 55 years old and ways you can boost your oral health so you avoid these problems.
COMMON DENTAL PROBLEMS IN SENIORS
- TOOTH DECAY
Brushing and flossing every day along with regular visits to your dentist can help you avoid tooth decay. However, if you haven't been doing this, you might be dealing with tooth decay in your golden years. Untreated decay turns into a cavity, which can eventually destroy your whole tooth and spread to your other teeth. If your tooth has changed colors (yellow or gray) and feels sensitive or loose, schedule an appointment with your dentist to have your tooth treated or extracted.
You may start to notice your teeth become more sensitive as you get older. This is often the result of worn enamel and untreated conditions (for example, a cracked tooth). If you are noticing a sharp pain when you eat or drink something that is especially hot or cold, talk to your dentist about possible underlying conditions that may be causing your tooth sensitivity and ways to strengthen your enamel.
- DRY MOUTH
Many people notice their mouth seems drier as they get older. It's not your imagination; chronic dry mouth is often a side effect of many medications and cancer treatments (chemotherapy and radiation). When your doctor prescribes a medication, ask if dry mouth is a possible side effect. If it is, make sure to start drinking more water and chewing sugar-free gum, which stimulates saliva.
- GUM DISEASE
If you didn't develop good oral hygiene habits when you were younger, it's probably catching up with you now. Older adults are at greater risk of developing gum disease, which is caused by built-up plaque and bacteria below the gumline. Gingivitis, the first stage of gum disease, may include visible symptoms including red, swollen, or bleeding gums.
- WEAR AND TEAR
Also known as attrition, all the years of using your teeth wears down the enamel. This can make your teeth more sensitive and increase your risk of developing cavities and other dental problems. It may help preserve your enamel to switch to a soft-bristle toothbrush and lighten the pressure when you brush.
- LOSING TEETH
The longer you live, the higher your chances are of losing your teeth. You may lose a tooth due to an accident, several due to an oral health condition, or all your teeth due to poor oral care. If you lose a tooth (or several), talk to your dentist in about restoration options. You may be a good candidate for a bridge or traditional dentures or an implanted restoration.
TIPS FOR IMPROVING YOUR ORAL HEALTH
- USE MOUTHWASH
A good way to combat dry mouth and clean away germs is with mouthwash. Look for a product that is specially formulated to help with dry mouth. You can also look for a moisturizing mouth spray to carry with you and use throughout the day.
- STAY HYDRATED
One tip that is good for your oral and overall health is drinking plenty of water throughout the day. This keeps your mouth from getting dry and rinses away bacteria when you can't brush. Tap water is usually preferable to bottled water since most cities add fluoride, which helps to strengthen your teeth. Try to limit sodas and coffee since it can stain your teeth and the acid damages your enamel.
- TAKE CARE OF RESTORATIONS
If you don't have all of your natural teeth, make sure you're taking good care of your dental restoration(s). Implanted crowns, bridges, and dentures should be brushed and flossed just like your natural teeth. Removable dentures should be taken out at night, brushed, and then soaked overnight. You can soak dentures in regular tap water or use a denture cleaner. Schedule regular visits with your dentist so they can check the wear and fit of your dental restoration.
- KEEP BRUSHING AND FLOSSING
Hopefully, brushing and flossing every day is a good habit that you already have. Be sure to replace your toothbrush every three months and use a fluoridated toothpaste. Brush your teeth, gums, and tongue gently at least twice a day. Make sure you're not brushing too aggressively or using the wrong type of toothbrush since this can lead to sensitivity and wears down your teeth faster. Ask your dentist to demonstrate proper brushing and flossing techniques.
- VISIT YOUR DENTIST
Keep visiting a board-certified dentist in at least twice a year for an oral health examination and professional cleaning. These visits give your dentist the opportunity to catch any problems early (for example, cavities and gum disease), so you have more treatment options that are typically less invasive. Your dentist can also check the health and wear of any dental restorations and make recommendations on how you can improve your oral health at home.
- DON'T USE TOBACCO
There are a million other reasons to quit, but using tobacco is bad for your oral (and overall) health. Talk to your doctor about tobacco cessation methods that can help you quit smoking or chewing tobacco. E-cigarettes can also be damaging to your mouth, even if you don't add tobacco.
GERIATRIC DENTISTRY IN
Make sure you can enjoy your golden years with a healthy mouth. If you're 55 or older, schedule an oral health examination and cleaning at. Our experienced team of dental professionals will help assess the condition of your teeth, gums, and jaw. We will treat any existing conditions, check the wear and fit of any restorations, and give you suggestions to help improve your oral health.
* All information subject to change. Images may contain models. Individual results are not guaranteed and may vary.