This is a contributed post from Rosana about Dental Health
How we view dental health and aging has changed as people understand the many misconceptions surrounding the connection between aging and our teeth.
One of the most common misconceptions about dental health and aging is the belief that losing teeth is a normal part of getting older.
This is untrue as your teeth should last your entire lifetime. The health of your teeth and mouth is vital for your body’s overall health and longevity. When you practice proper oral hygiene, you are also caring for the rest of your body.
Long-term neglect of your oral health can result in gingivitis which is chronic gum inflammation that leads to bleeding gums. Gingivitis may eventually lead to the deterioration of the foundations of your mouth.
This is a leading cause of tooth loss in old age. This article covers the dental conditions you are at risk from as you age. We also share top tips on keeping your smile healthy.
Table of Contents
Risk of Disease
The risk of tooth decay is at its highest during your youth. As you age, newly forming tooth decay is less likely. However, tooth decay is a risk to those over 45.
Decay in the roots of your teeth becomes more prevalent. The lesions accompanying root decay appear directly on the root surface, typically covered by the gums.
This makes it more challenging to spot. Many conditions that impact your saliva production can also significantly increase the risk of decay in the roots of your teeth.
Additionally, any areas of your teeth that have undergone previous dental restorations that haven’t been replaced or monitored also pose an increased risk of tooth or root decay.
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As well as root and tooth decay, your risk of gum disease increases as you age. As a result, you need to be more prudent in monitoring, maintaining, and caring for your dental health.
In monitoring your dental health, seek a dentist to spot the early warning signs of oral cancer.
While the risk increases with age, it is also heavily influenced by lifestyle factors such as smoking, and frequent screenings for oral cancer are vital and best performed by experts.
A dry mouth is often caused by medications or medical conditions needed as you age. The reduction in saliva production can be detrimental.
Saliva carries minerals and immune cells to protect teeth from infections and cavities.
You are more prone to oral health problems when you suffer from a dry mouth.
The calcium balance in your mouth, distributed between oral bacteria and teeth, is also disrupted as saliva is essential for the distribution process.
Additionally, lifestyle habits that produce a short-term reduction in saliva production are more harmful to the teeth. This includes frequent consumption of carbohydrates or sucking on mints.
A dry mouth also worsens this short-term lack of saliva. If you begin to suffer from a dry mouth, it is vital for your oral health that you drink plenty of water and speak to your dentist for advice.
Your dentist can recommend products you can use to reduce the symptoms and encourage saliva production.
As you age, many conditions are not only linked to oral health but can directly affect the overall health of your mouth.
This includes cancer, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease. Poor dental hygiene and oral health can also impact and worsen some conditions.
Inform your dentist of any illnesses you have so they can consider specific factors when treating you. Furthermore, research has found strong links between gum disease and heart disease.
The chance of having a heart attack is a significant risk when you also have severe gum disease.
Moreover, as type 2 diabetes is more prevalent in older people, many suffer from an increased risk of developing dental conditions due to the impairment of the immune system.
Effects of Medication On Your Dental Health
People over 50 are more likely to be taking multiple medications as they age; it’s important to understand which medications can impact your oral health.
Typically, medications that impact the oral cavity cause dry mouth.
As mentioned previously, it disrupts the roles carried about across your mouth, and this limited saliva flow can affect your risk for diseases, such as tooth decay.
- Anti-depressants: Many types of anti-depressant medications can reduce saliva flow by dampening the reaction of neural cells. As a result of the dampening effect, they also impact the saliva glands which produce saliva. People taking this medication are at higher risk of conditions like root decay.
- Parkinson’s Medication: In the same way as anti-depressants, medications used to reduce the symptoms of Parkinson’s also impact saliva production and increase the risk of root decay.
- High blood pressure drugs: Drugs used to reduce hypertension may also impact the saliva flow, while others can only give the sensation of a dry mouth without affecting saliva production.
- Bisphosphonates: This medication influences the rate of bone turnover in the mouth, increasing the chances of complications like osteoradionecrosis following routine dental procedures such as tooth extractions.
When taking any of the above medications or others, consult your dentist to ensure you are not at risk of complications.
Dental Health and Gum Changes
When you age, your gums may recede. This is typically due to the general wear and tear, traumas that can occur in the mouth throughout your life. When your gums recede, it exposes the surface of your roots.
These roots are not protected by enamel. As a result, there could be an increased sensitivity to hot and cold food or drink. In this instance, your dentist will recommend toothpaste designed to relieve sensitivity.
They will also examine your teeth to ensure no severe issues, such as decay or damage, are causing the sensitivity. Also, exposed root surfaces are at risk of tartar and decay, leading to gum disease.
Know About Dental Myths
You might be surprised to know that plenty of dental health-related myths are floating around. This can include myths about teeth whitening and so much more.
There are even myths about what you eat and how it can affect your oral hygiene.
While it is very important to take care of your dental health, know that there will be myths. Just like there are myths about physical health, there are myths about oral health too.
So make sure you do thorough research and talk to your dentist, as you’ll want to ensure all myths can be cleared up.
Healthy Mouth Tips
The first step to a healthier mouth is to reduce the amount of sweet and starchy products you consume. Sugar increases acids in your mouth that can erode your teeth.
Starchy foods stick to the teeth, forming plaque and leading to a build-up of bacteria. By cutting out sweets and processed carbohydrates, you will do your teeth a favor and improve your overall health.
Additionally, avoid artificial sweeteners such as aspartame, as they will likely cause your brain to crave more sugar.
Research has associated it with weight gain, increased risk for high blood pressure, diabetes, and heart disease.
As well as changes to your diet, it would help if you brushed your teeth twice a day. Also, floss at least once a day.
Thorough brushing and flossing provide the best defense against gum disease, plaque, and decay. They also improve the smell of your breath.
Finally, the most important part of keeping your mouth healthy is regular visits to your dentist or pediatric dentist, which can help you catch any potential dental problems at their earliest stages.
If you delay treatment, you could be left with permanent oral damage.
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Erin is the mother of identical twin girls and their slightly older brother. She is a domestic engineer, and previously had a career leading customer service teams for a major HVAC company. Cleaning without harsh chemicals, and cooking easy and usually healthy meals are part of Erin's daily life. She volunteers with youth leaders, and genuinely wants to help others win. Erin has a degree in Communications, with a focus on Broadcast Journalism.