Because of modern dentistry, most of us can expect to keep our own teeth well past middle-age into our senior years. However, as we age, maintaining oral and dental health can be a challenge, especially if you have a combination of natural teeth and partial dentures or implants.
Here’s a look at what to watch out for, and what you can do to keep that healthy smile.
Dry mouth or Xerostomia
Many issues can cause dry mouth, including conditions such as diabetes and some treatments like radiation therapy. Common medications for high blood pressure, heart problems, and depression can also cause dry mouth.
• The problem with dry mouth is that saliva helps to flush away bacteria, and keep the mouth clean. There can be an increase in tooth decay activity, and even gum disease.
• If you suffer from dry mouth, sipping water throughout the day will help, as well as sugarless gum or mints. Stringent home and professional care is essential to avoid cavities and gum disease.
Cavities at tooth roots
As you age, you are more likely to develop decay at the roots of the teeth at the gum line, and also at the edges of existing fillings. Gums can recede naturally as we age, an effect which is exacerbated by brushing too hard. Once the roots are exposed, they are more susceptible to decay since they do not have the same enamel protection as the regular tooth surfaces.
Increased risk of gum disease
You may be able to get away with less than stellar or entirely consistent oral and dental hygiene for a while, but as you get older, the problems will only worsen. Plaque causes more tooth decay the longer it exists in your mouth, and the build up over time can cause inflammation of the gums. That inflammation can even eventually reach the bones underneath teeth.
Some discolouration of the teeth is natural as we age. However, you can minimize the effect by avoiding smoking, coffee, tea, and other beverages with strong pigments. You can also talk to your dentist about tooth whitening options.
If you have problems with arthritis, or other issues affecting your hands, you may have problems holding your toothbrush.
• Try wrapping and taping a sponge around the handle to make it larger.
• An electric tooth brush can help you by doing all the fine work.
• A plastic floss holder can likewise help you if you have trouble grasping floss. Dental tape is another good option.
What Can You Do?
There is growing evidence that poor oral health can affect a number of very serious health issues such as heart disease, stroke, respiratory issues, and diabetes. There are some easy steps you can take to make sure your teeth and mouth are in the best possible condition.
• Brush your natural teeth twice a day with a fluoride toothpaste – you will never outgrow this habit.
• Use floss to clean between teeth at least once a day.
• Dentures should be cleaned and soaked each day. Brush or massage your gums.
• See a dental hygienist once or ideally twice a year to help keep on top of any developing issues.
• You still need to clean natural teeth twice a day even where there are partial dentures or implants. Extra care is needed to make sure all those crevices between teeth are kept clean.
• Keep track of any new medications that you take, or any changes to your diet. These are things that can affect your oral health and will help the dentist or hygienist evaluate your situation.
• Be sure to ask your dental hygienist or dentist for an oral cancer check along with your usual checkup appointment. They can see very early signs that otherwise would go unnoticed.
Looking for advice on any aspect of your oral and dental health? You’ll find the answer at Dr. Robert Axelrad’s Dental Office in Brampton, ON.
If you’re looking for a well-regarded and highly skilled dentist in the Brampton area, make an appointment with Dr. Robert Axelrad by calling (905)-791-3867. Visit our website to learn more about our dental services.