Aging and Oral Health

 As we age, several things happen to our bodies. Teeth are no different as they are connected to our body. Unfortunately, many individuals see their teeth as an afterthought and of little importance. Did you know that nearly a quarter of people over 65 have not seen a dentist within the past 5 years? 

As we age, our teeth, gums and the rest of the oral cavity need a little extra care. Aging isn't always pretty but there are things that you can do to keep your mouth looking and feeling younger than its age. Older individuals suffer higher rates of gum disease, tooth decay, oral cancer, mouth infections and tooth loss. Teeth are very strong but they are not indestructible. A lifetime of chewing wears away the outer layer of enamel and flattens the biting edge. Tooth surfaces are exposed to acidic foods and beverages, which dissolve the protective enamel. Weakened enamel sets the stage for more serious dental problems. The chance of having tooth damage severe enough to require a root canal or similarly invasive procedure triples over the age of 65.

Why Does the Incidence of Tooth Decay Increase?

With age, we become more vulnerable to tooth decay, possibly due to a preference for sweeter foods, dry mouth or less care with oral hygiene. Tooth decay is largely preventable by reducing the quantity and frequency that sugar is consumed. Food grazing and sipping on sugary drinks throughout the day is especially bad, as it means that there is sugar and acid against the teeth all day long. The rate of tooth decay among the older generation, now outpaces that of school children. A prime target for dental caries in older individuals is around the gum line where natural tooth recession has occured. Sip on water, brush with fluoride toothpaste at least twice a day, floss at least once a day and see us regularly for check ups. If you have trouble brushing and flossing by hand due to arthritis or other disabilities, talk to us about switching to an electric toothbrush. 

Why is Dry Mouth a Problem?

With age, we get a little slower and often times we start taking medicines to combat the effects of aging. Many of these medicines have a detrimental effect on your oral health. Hundreds of medications list dry mouth as a side effect. Lack of saliva is uncomfortable, makes eating and swallowing difficult, causes bad breath and leads to irritation and infection of oral tissues. It also raises your risk of gum disease and tooth decay. You can moisten a dry mouth by chewing sugarless gum or simply drinking more water. If dry mouth is a problem, you need to be extra vigilant with brushing and flossing because of the increased vulnerability to cavities.

Is There Really a Mouth Body Connection?

The well being of your mouth is tied to the health of the rest of your body. There is evidence of the association between gum disease and conditions such as heart disease, diabetes, stroke and respiratory problems. Bacteria from gum disease travels through the bloodstream and triggers inflammation in organs and tissues at distant sites. Remember, the mouth is the hub for the whole body.


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