Teeth, gums, and the rest of the oral cavity need extra care and attention if you want them to stay healthy in your later years.
Aging isn’t always pretty, and your mouth is no exception. With regular dental care and good daily habits, you’ll likely have your teeth for a lifetime. As you get older, however, natural changes in both your mouth and general health can put you at risk of dental problems. Knowing the vulnerabilities that come with aging will allow you to effectively manage your oral health care, and prevent these dental complications.
Today, three-quarters of people over 65 retain at least some of their natural teeth, but older people still suffer higher rates of gum disease, dental decay, oral cancer, mouth infections, and tooth loss. While these problems are nothing to smile about, you can still do a lot to keep your mouth looking and feeling younger than its years.
Tips for Maintaining Oral Health
- Brush twice a day with a toothbrush with soft bristles. You may also benefit from using an electric toothbrush.
- Clean between your teeth once a day with floss or another flossing tool.
- If you wear full or partial dentures, remember to clean them daily. Take your dentures out of your mouth for at least four hours every day. It’s best to remove them at night.
- Drink tap water. Since most contains fluoride, it helps prevent tooth decay no matter how old you are.
- Quit smoking. Besides putting you at greater risk for lung and other cancers, smoking increases problems with gum disease, tooth decay and tooth loss.
- Visit your dentist. Visit your dentist regularly for a complete dental check-up.
Adopt Healthy Oral Habits at Home
By adopting healthy oral habits at home, making smart choices about diet and lifestyle, and seeking regular dental care, you can help your teeth last a lifetime—whether you have your natural teeth, implants or wear dentures.
The dentist chair and the bathroom aren’t the only places where oral care can take place. Attack dry mouth by staying hydrated. Use artificial saliva products and chew sugarless gum. And talk to your dentist about any medications you’re taking that could cause dry mouth.
As your doctor may have already advised, eat healthy foods that are low in sugar and high in fiber. The American Dental Association’s (ADA) Mouth Healthy site suggests older adults need 1,000 milligrams a day of calcium from low-fat dairy products to prevent osteoporosis, which can affect the bone surrounding your teeth.
Finally, reduce your oral cancer risks. Because oral cancer is common in older adults, the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research recommends eliminating tobacco and alcoholic products, staying out of the sun or wearing sunscreen, and having your dentist examine your mouth for signs of oral cancer.
Mark Twain once said, “Age is an issue of mind over matter. If you don’t mind, it doesn’t matter.” But as you age, good oral health care does matter. By understanding the dental risks that come with aging, you and your dentist can work together to prevent oral health problems so that you can keep your teeth for a lifetime.
By and large, dental care doesn’t turn inside out when you reach a certain age, but you will have to do more to keep your smile strong.