Did you know that people over the age of 60 are more likely to experience dental problems compared to other age groups? While some effects of aging are unavoidable, luckily there are ways to counteract the damage that everyday life does to our teeth.
Preventative care is the key to avoiding dental concerns that may start with little to no signs or symptoms, but with consistent mouthwash use, brushing, and flossing maintaining good oral health is made simpler. Couple that with regular visits to your Edinburg family dentist at Heroes Dental and you can ensure that your pearly whites stay that way for years to come.
In order to bring awareness, we have compiled the 6 common ways aging affects your oral health, along with what you can do to avoid or lessen the effects.
1. Wear and Tear
Teeth are strong. Molars can press down with up to 200 pounds of force per square inch. With that kind of power in your jaw, everyday life can certainly wear away the enamel on our teeth over time. So much so, in fact, that after the age of 65, the likelihood a person will need a root canal triples. The nerves in your teeth also lose sensitivity as you age, so you may not notice the painful warning signs of some dental issues.
To help alleviate the effects of wear and tear on your teeth, it’s important to keep up with good oral habits: brushing, flossing, and using mouthwash. The fluoride in toothpastes can help keep in the calcium and phosphates that acids drain out of teeth in, effectively remineralizing enamel–but not regenerating it–and keeping bacteria from taking hold. If you have trouble brushing because of arthritis or other issues, using an electric toothbrush may also help.
2. Shifting Facial Structure
As we age, our bones get weaker, and we stop producing as much collagen. This can cause dental arches to narrow and teeth to shift inwards or turn. Bone loss and shifting can affect how your skin looks like on your face, meaning it can cause wrinkling.
While you can’t avoid weakening bones, there are options for people who may have trouble chewing, brushing, or flossing due to changes in their teeth. Minor surgery is a possibility, but simple braces can also be helpful and aren’t only for teenagers anymore.
3. Dry Mouth
Dry mouth can be a menace to a healthy mouth. As we get older, our glands become less effective at producing saliva, but the main cause of dry mouth is probably side effects of medications. Older people are likely to be on more medications than young people, making them the most likely to have problems with dry mouth.
Saliva is essential to keeping your mouth healthy, and without it, lots of bad things can happen. Bad breath, tooth decay, cavity formation, and increased risk of bacterial growth are all side effects of dry mouth. Not having enough saliva also means you will likely struggle to chew and swallow.
If you think your medication may be giving you dry mouth, you can ask your doctor if there is an alternative medicine available. Even if there isn’t another option, all hope is not lost. Combatting dry mouth can be as simple as drinking plenty of water, but sugarless gum and over-the-counter saliva substitutes are also possible solutions. And remember, drinking a lot of coffee or alcohol or using tobacco products can all reduce saliva production, so it’s best to use them in moderation or avoid them entirely.
4. Yellowing Teeth
Aside from the aforementioned coffee, there are a few other reasons your teeth may change into a yellowish color. Wine, and tea can also cause teeth staining; however, sometimes, our teeth change color not because of stains, but because of wear and tear as well.
As the enamel on teeth is worn away, the underlying yellow-colored dentin beneath becomes more visible. It’s not a stain; it’s just a deeper part of your tooth. It can be revealed by age or accidental trauma to your teeth like teeth grinding.
If your teeth are stained, there are plenty of over-the-counter treatments available like certain kinds of toothpaste, dental bleaches, and whitening strips that are designed for whitening. These may be less effective on older teeth, and some stains are harder to remove than others. But nothing can truly address a staining problem like a dental checkup over at Heroes Dental.
5. Periodontal Disease
Periodontal disease is a disease caused by an accumulation of plaque and bacteria in the space between your teeth and gums. It is often preceded by gingivitis, and it can be caused by bad oral hygiene. Gum disease gets worse the longer it’s left untreated, which means that older people are more likely to suffer from it.
Periodontal disease can cause teeth shifting, wobbly teeth, and jaw bone deterioration. It also causes reduced gums which can make older people’s teeth look longer; this is where the expression “long in the tooth” most likely comes from. Reduced gums can also be caused by over-enthusiastic brushing and flossing, so brush with a soft-bristled brush.
If your dentist thinks you have periodontal disease, treatment options include antibiotics, scraping to remove plaque (deep cleaning), and surgery. To avoid gum disease, however, be sure to maintain a regular schedule of brushing twice a day for two-minute intervals, flossing at least once, and regular mouthwash usage.
6. Oral Cancers
Many illnesses are more common in older people, and oral cancers are no exception. The average age of people with cancer of the mouth, jaw, tongue, and throat is 62. If you are nearing or at around that age already, you may want to watch out for these common warning symptoms:
- Open Sores
- White or Reddish Patches
- Changes in Color, Sensitivity, and Size of:
- The Lining of the Mouth
If you have experienced any of these symptoms, be sure to consult your dentist at Heroes Dental. Regular screenings are the best way to combat oral cancers because the early stages of the disease are often undetectable. The earlier you catch it, the better chance you have of successfully treating it.
A Dedicated Oral and Dental Health Team Looking Out For You
Dental health knowledge is a powerful tool. Tooth decay and gum disease put you at greater risk of developing conditions like cancer and cardiovascular disease, so being aware of your oral health is very important. Knowing what changes may occur can help you look out for, and avoid, painful consequences later.