“Every tooth in a man’s head is more valuable than a diamond. “
A healthy mouth helps to promote general health and wellness through all stages of life. Maintaining a healthy mouth throughout life is a wonderful habit to develop for the sake of preserving your teeth, your smile, and your overall well-being. The basics of dental care – brushing, flossing, regular check-ups and cleanings, and eating right – are the same as in all other stages of life. However, there are certain oral health concerns that are more common in seniors. Knowing these can help you know what to watch for as years come and go.
Tooth Decay: Bacteria-filled plaque builds up quickly on your tooth enamel, the hard protective covering on your teeth. The acid that these bacteria produce causes tooth decay. As we get older, cavities are more likely to develop around old fillings and crowns as well as on exposed root surfaces.
Gum Disease: Gum disease or periodontal disease, occurs when plaque accumulates and spreads beneath the gum line. Again, the bacteria in plaque, which work their way onto and under the gum, line causes inflamed, bleeding gums and eventually bone loss. Once the attachment of the teeth is compromised, repair can be either very difficult or impossible. In its most severe form, gum disease results in the loss of teeth.
Root Caries: Root caries is decay on the roots of your teeth. If the gums recede and the soft root surface of the tooth is exposed, such decay is very common. This surface is more susceptible to decay than tooth enamel and is more commonly seen as we enter our retirement years.
Dry Mouth: Dry mouth is also called xerostomia. It often occurs as a side effect of medication or other health problems and treatments, including cancer treatments like radiation therapy. Menopausal and post-menopausal women also often produce less saliva. The reduction of saliva leads an increased risk of tooth decay and gum disease because the buffers in saliva, which neutralize bacterial acids, are no longer present.
Oral Cancer: There are about 35,000 cases of mouth; throat and tongue cancer diagnosed every year. Most are over the age of 40, with an average diagnosis age of 62. Two of the most common contributors to oral cancer are tobacco in any form and alcohol. Regular exams, which include oral cancer screenings, can be lifesavers.
Denture Problems: Denture wearers need regular care too. If dentures become loose or fit poorly, mouth sores develop making chewing very difficult and potentially causing excessive loss of bone. Dentures must also be properly maintained so that bacterial colonies do not form on their surfaces.
Be sure to ask your dental professionals for assistance in caring for your dentures.
The steps to maintaining oral health throughout life change very little.
- Brush and floss regularly to eliminate plaque.
- Have regular dental check-ups and cleanings.
- Eat nutritious foods and put a limit on “Junk”.
- Don’t smoke or chew tobacco, and if you do, take the steps to quit.
- Drink alcohol in moderation.
- If you have dentures, be sure to give them proper care.
These few simple steps lay a solid foundation for excellent oral health and help you to maintain a smile to last a lifetime!