Growing older often means adapting to change. Good habits maintained for a lifetime help us to cope with change and help preserve a healthy quality lifestyle. Your daily brushing and flossing routine and regular visits to the dentist are strong foundations for good oral and overall health.
How Does Growing Older Affect Oral Health?
The aging process often creates subtle or dramatic changes in the condition of teeth, mouth and gums. Keeping the teeth clean and white may become more involved. The formation of plaque, a clear layer of bacteria that builds up on the teeth, accelerates as we grow older. Teeth also may darken in color due to changes in dentin, the tooth layer underneath the tooth enamel. Gums may begin to recede from the teeth. This process exposes the root surfaces of the teeth to plaque and can cause tooth decay. In addition, older fillings may weaken- and crack, allowing bacteria to accumulate around the edges of fillings – causing cavities. Many people may have cavities on the teeth as well as the root surfaces which require dental care.
Dry mouth may develop. This is caused by reduced saliva flow. It may lead to tooth damage. Reduced saliva slow may be a medical disorder or a side effect of medications such as antihistamines, decongestant, pain killers or diuretics. The reduced flow affects teeth because saliva acts as a cleaning agent in the mouth to wash away acids produced by plaque. When the mouth is not adequately lubricated and moistened by saliva, plaque forms more quickly and produces cavities.
Gum disease develops more readily. Bacteria in plaque create toxins which irritate the gums and cause gum tissue to separate from the teeth. If left untreated, gum disease can cause unnecessary tooth loss. It also may dissolve the bone that holds the teeth in place. Poorly fitted dentures, poor oral hygiene, illnesses and some medications may increase the severity of gum disease and create chewing problems and pain in the jaw. Fortunately, visiting your dental team regularly can help reduce the spread of disease and its damaging effects.
What Can I Do to Keep My Mouth Healthy?
One of the best ways to keep your mouth healthy is to visit your dental treatment team for periodic check-ups. Dentists are trained to detect changes in the condition of your teeth and gums as a part of a regular check-up. Early treatment of gum disease and cavities reduces the need and the cost for more extensive treatment that may be required if problems of the mouth, gums and teeth go untreated. Good “at-home” care can help reduce the formation of plaque. Brushing and flossing cannot remove tartar (hardened plaque) from teeth. Visit your dentist or dental hygienist regularly to have tartar removed professionally.
The dentist is able to diagnose life-threatening diseases that require medical attention. Early sign of diabetes, oral cancer or adverse drug reactions and interactions often can be spotted by the dentist during a regular dental exam. Dental patients with heart conditions or high blood pressure may require pre-medication or a change in their regular medication before undergoing certain dental procedures. These conditions should be discussed with your dentist during the check-up appointment.
How Can Regular Dental Treatment Help Maintain My Lifestyle?
Regardless of age, you should be able to eat as you like and enjoy a beautiful smile. Many dental treatments are designed to restore your smile to their youthful good health. Daily use of fluoridated toothpaste and mouthwashes prescribed by your dentist or dental hygienist can strengthen tooth enamel and reduce tooth decay especially around any exposed roots. Periodontal (gum) treatments can reduce gum sensitivity, recession and bleeding. These treatments also can improve (halitosis) bad breath and strengthen the bone that holds the teeth in place. Dentures and other tooth restorations are available options. By filling in the gaps from lost teeth or by replacing diseased teeth, your dentist can help you maintain good chewing surfaces and good bite alignments. You will be able to chew with ease and smile with confidence!