Oral Health & Aging

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There is a strong relationship between your oral health and your overall physical health. How your teeth age depends on how well you’ve cared for them over the years. It’s important to know that older adults need to continue to focus on prevention of cavities and prevention of gum disease.

The good news is that preventative dentistry and scientific advances are helping older adults keep their natural teeth much longer. It’s never been more important to help protect your teeth and gums against oral disease and maintain overall good health. You can do this by:

  • brushing and flossing real or replacement teeth twice daily
  • Using toothpaste containing fluoride
  • Eating a healthy diet and limiting sweets
  • Avoiding tobacco. Smokers have a greater risk of developing gum disease than non-smokers
  • Limiting alcohol. Alcohol and tobacco used together are the primary risk factors for oral cancers
  • Visiting a dentist at least every six months. Are you feeling anxious about visiting the dentist?

Seniors need to continue to focus on cavity prevention.
The causes of tooth decay are the same for all ages. Decay happens when the bacteria in plaque feeds on the sugar in our diet to produce acid that can cause cavities.

Many older adults grew up without fluoride in the water. Therefore, they are more likely to have decay around fillings. Decay of the tooth root is also common in older adults because when the gums recede this exposes the softer root surface which decays easier than tooth enamel.

Seniors need to continue to focus on prevention of gum disease.
Gum disease (the technical term is periodontal disease) often progresses at a slow pace, over time, with no pain. As a result, it’s very common in older adults. And it’s important to know that there is evidence linking gum disease to heart disease, respiratory disorders and strokes.

If gum disease goes undetected, it can do a great deal of damage. It is primarily caused by plaque but there are other factors that may increase the risk and severity of the condition including:

  • Food left between the teeth
  • Smoking
  • Smokeless tobacco use
  • Poorly aligned teeth
  • Poorly fitted partial dentures or bridges
  • Poor diets and
  • Systemic diseases (e.g. anemia)

The good news is that gum disease can be stopped! Make sure you look for these warning signs and see your dentist immediately if you notice any of the following:

  • Bleeding gums when you brush
  • Tender, red or swollen gums
  • Gums that have pulled away from the teeth
  • Pus between your teeth and gums when the gums are pressed
  • Any change in your bite
  • Any change in the fit of your partial dentures
  • Constant bad taste or bad breath

Anxious about visiting the dentist?
Feeling anxious about visiting the dentist is not unusual – it can happen at any age! It’s important to know that you don’t have to tolerate toothaches, bleeding gums or clicking dentures. Your dentist wants to make you as comfortable as possible. Please share your feelings with your dentist and his or her staff so that they can adjust your treatment to meet your needs.

 

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