Thanks to advances in modern dentistry, more widespread oral care education, and the availability of better oral care tools, such as toothbrushes, toothpaste, and interdental cleaners (brushes to clean between the teeth), a greater number of older adults are keeping their natural teeth for a much longer period of time. It is important to remember, however, that keeping your teeth in good condition as you age might require some special attention. Here are some oral care tips to help you.
Aging Presents New Oral Challenges
As you get older, certain oral conditions not present when you were younger might develop. These include:
- Dry mouth: Dry mouth can result from physical changes within the body as it ages, but can also be caused by medications. Over 400 commonly used medications can contribute to dry mouth. This increases the risk for oral disease, as saliva helps kill bacteria and rebuild enamel.
- Attrition: Otherwise known as simple wear and tear, many years of chewing and grinding can take their toll on an aging set of teeth. As enamel wears down, the risk for cavities increases.
- Erosion: Can be caused by acids from too many carbonated drinks, fruit juices and heart burn/acid reflux. As above, when enamel wears down, the risk for cavities increase.
- Disease: This includes oral cancer and less serious illnesses, such as thrush, which is an abnormal growth of fungus in the mouth.
- Root decay: Often accompanied by gum disease, the roots of your teeth may become exposed as your gums recede, leading to an increased rate of decay as you age.
Maintaining a Healthy Mouth as You Age
There are several things you can do to maintain your oral health as you age:
- Increase fluoridation: Switch to a fluoride toothpaste or incorporate a fluoride rinse into your daily routine. (Always have prescriped by your dentist)
- Avoid tobacco: Tobacco in any form has been linked to an increased risk of mouth and throat cancer, not to mention heart disease and other serious conditions. Chewing tobacco can even lead to more decay, as many tobacco formulations contain sugar.
- Increase oral hydration: Ask your doctor if you can substitute your medication for one that doesn't produce dry mouth. If this is not possible, then drink plenty of water, chew a sugarfree gum, and avoid alcohol, which tends to dehydrate your body.
- Use an antibacterial mouthwash: When used with brushing and flossing, an antibacterial wash can reduce the buildup of plaque. (Always have prescriped by your dentist)
Keeping your teeth in tip-top shape as you age requires a few common sense practices. It is also important is to see a dental care professional regularly, as he can provide even more oral care tips. So don't skip your check-ups.