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 the overall health of your body and your 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. In this article, we cover the dental conditions you are at risk from as you age. We also share top tips on keeping your smile healthy.
Risk of Disease
The risk of tooth decay is at its highest during your youth. This is because 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 that accompany root decay appear directly on the root surface, which is 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 aren’t replaced or monitored also pose an increased risk of tooth or root decay.
As well as root and tooth decay, as you age, your risk of gum disease increases. As a result, you need to be more prudent in monitoring, maintaining, and caring for your dental health. In monitoring your dental health, also 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 is vital and best performed by experts like Pure Dentistry.
Dry mouth is often caused by medications or medical conditions needed as you age. The reduction in saliva productions can be detrimental. Saliva carries minerals and immune cells to protect teeth from infections and cavities. When you suffer from a dry mouth, you are more prone to oral health problems. 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 dentisit 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 take specific factors into account 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, 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: There are many types of anti-depressant medications that 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 dry mouth without affecting the 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 increase sensitivity to hot and cold food or drink. In this instance, your dentist will recommend toothpaste that has been designed to relieve sensitivity. They will also examine your teeth to ensure no severe issues are causing the sensitivity, such as decay or damage. Additionally, exposed root surfaces are also at risk of tartar and decay, leading to gum disease.
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, leading to a build-up of bacteria. By cutting out sweets and processed carbohydrates, you will be doing your teeth a favour and improving your overall health. Additionally, avoid artificial sweeteners such as aspartame as they are likely to cause your brain to crave more sugar. Research has associated it with weight gain and increased risk for high blood pressure, diabetes 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 improved the smell of your breath.
Finally, the most important part of keeping your mouth healthy is regular visits to your dentist or paediatric dentist, as they can help you catch any potential dental problems at their earliest stages. If you delay treatment, you could be left with permanent oral damage.