Tooth Wisdom Throughout the Years
Here are some things to keep in mind to help you maintain a healthy smile as you grow older:
Because dental decay is still common among older adults, it is especially important to brush at least twice a day with a fluoride toothpaste, particularly at bedtime.
Some medications or medical conditions can cause dry mouth as a result of a lack of saliva. Saliva has anti-bacterial properties and helps protect against tooth decay. Drinking water, chewing sugarless gum, and sucking on sugarless candy can help restore moisture. A dentist can also recommend mouth rinses or artificial saliva.
The incidence of gum disease (periodontitis) is greater among older adults; symptoms may include bleeding, tender or swollen gums, loose teeth, and bad breath. Regular flossing, combined with daily brushing, can help minimize or prevent this from happening. Receding gums can result in the root of the tooth being exposed and susceptible to decay. Using fluoride toothpaste and mouth rinses can help prevent or reduce cavities on root surfaces.
The use of tobacco and alcohol can cause tooth-related problems, mask gum inflammation, and increase the risk of developing oral cancer. It’s never too late to quit and reduce these risks.
Visit your dentist on a regular basis even if you have dentures.
A daily effort to keep your mouth clean, combined with regular dental visits, can help keep your smile healthy.
Sources: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, web, accessed March 2010.
Vargas CM, Kramarow EA, Yellowitz JA. The Oral Health of Older Americans. Aging Trends; No.3. Hyattsville, Maryland: National Center for Health Statistics. 2001.