You’d be amazed to consider how our perception and understanding of dental health and aging have changed in such a short period. While dental conditions can certainly become more common in the elderly, many misconceptions surround the connection between aging and our teeth.
One of the biggest myths about aging and oral health is the belief that losing teeth is a normal part of getting older. This is not true—your teeth should last you a lifetime. The status of your dentition and mouth is paramount to your overall health and will contribute to your overall longevity. Translation? If you look after your teeth, you’re looking after the rest of your body.
Aging and Risk of Disease
There are some interesting and often misunderstood interplays between the conditions of the mouth and age.
Tooth decay – Generally, our risk of tooth decay is at its highest in our infant and teen years. As people age, with the adult dentition coming into formation, newly forming tooth decay is less likely. However, that’s not to say we don’t need to worry about new holes.
One type of decay that does become more prevalent is root caries. These are lesions that appear on the root surface of the teeth that is usually covered by the gums. Conditions that impact the level of saliva production can significantly increase the risk of root decay.
Gum disease – As we age, our risk of gum disease increases. With every birthday, we need to be more and more prudent in monitoring, maintaining, and caring for our gum health.
Oral cancer – The risk of oral cancer increases with age. While heavily influenced by certain lifestyle factors, as we age we need to become particularly vigilant in our screenings for oral cancer.
Dry Mouth in Older Patients
Dry mouth can be an issue for seniors, which can be related to medications or medical conditions. Saliva carries minerals and immune cells that help to protect the teeth from cavities and infections, so with a reduced flow of saliva, you will be more prone to oral health problems. The balance of calcium in your mouth, which is distributed between teeth and oral bacteria, is in a delicate interplay in your saliva.
Some medical conditions are linked to and can affect the oral health of older patients. Some examples include cancer, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease. Poor oral health can make some conditions worse, so it is important to let your dentist know if you have any illnesses, so he or she can take certain factors into account when treating you.
There are strong links between people who have gum disease and heart disease, with the likelihood of heart attack a significant factor in severe gum disease.
Type 2 diabetes, which is much more prevalent in the elderly population, can worsen conditions in the mouth due to the impairment of the immune system.
How to Maintain a Healthy Smile After 60?
Keep Your Mouth Hydrated
An astounding 500 medications and a few medical treatments list dry mouth among their side effects. It is also a symptom of a few diseases and dry mouth contributes to both cavities and gum disease. The best ways to avoid dry mouth are by drinking lots of water to keep the body hydrated in general and limiting dehydrating drinks like alcohol, coffee, and sodas.
Tasty helpers like sugar-free gum or mints stimulate saliva production. But always be sure to mention your medications to your dentist, so she can best guide and treat you.
Regular Visits to Your Dentist
Since prevention is the best medicine, you can keep your teeth at their best with regular visits to the dentist. Periodic appointments can detect, prevent or treat gum disease, which left untreated, can destroy gums, bone, and ligaments resulting in tooth loss.
Your dentist can also catch early signs of mouth cancer, a concern that peaks in our sixties, although its occurrence is still relatively low. Staying on a regular maintenance schedule with your dentist will help ensure that these tooth problems don’t have to be a concern.
Teeth Whitening, Bonding, and Veneers
As we move into our sixties, our teeth become darker in color and more difficult to whiten. The change in color is due not only to years of staining that is now deeply embedded in the teeth, but also to changes in dentin below the enamel surface of our teeth.
Dentures, Bridges, and Invisalign
Our teeth begin to shift as we get older, sometimes rotating, moving apart or even overlapping. If you already wear dentures or a bridge, follow the same rules of good oral health.
Diet and Sunscreen Lip Balm
A well-balanced diet will help provide the proper conditions to support your sparkling teeth. Healthy teeth and gums require adequate amounts of vitamin C, phosphorous, and calcium. If you avoid using tobacco products, and choose a lip balm with sunscreen, you can also help avoid the most common causes of mouth cancer.
Keeping your mouth healthy only takes a few simple steps a day and reduces risk factors for heart disease and stroke, diabetes, and other common ailments. Brush, floss, rinse, get regular checkups, and eat a healthy diet. By maintaining a good environment for your pearly whites, you can preserve your lovely smile for a lifetime.
We love our patients and love to help them form a healthy dental life that will last them a lifetime. Lancaster Dental is a dental clinic in Lancaster, Bellaire Acres, Westridge, Lancaster North, and Ten Mile Creek Neighborhood we have the best dental services in Texas: General & Cosmetic Dentistry, Crowns & Bridges, Dental Implants, Emergency Services, Teeth Whitening, Pediatric Dentistry, Braces & Invisalign For more information call us to answer all of your questions so you can get an appointment today.