Tooth loss and the need for dentures used to be an inevitable side effects of aging. But in today’s society, more and more people are keeping their natural teeth thanks to advances in dentistry and an increased emphasis on oral health.
Growing old does not mean you need to lose your teeth. There is a multitude of ways to not only keep your teeth intact, but to also keep them looking and feeling good.
Risks to Oral Health as you Age
As we age, a multitude of risk factors can affect our overall oral health. Luckily, most of these can be combated with proper care and maintenance. Some examples of risk factors are:
- Receding Gums: Years of harsh brushing and missed diagnosis for gum disease can lead to receding gums.
- Dry Mouth: A common side effect of medications.
- Medical Conditions: Diabetes, cancer, iron deficiency, thyroid problems, and various other conditions can contribute to oral health issues.
- Natural Wear: No matter what precautions you take, your teeth are going to experience wear down through years of biting, chewing, and grinding.
How to Look After Your Teeth
Tooth loss is not necessarily a side effect of old age. Proper care of your teeth and avoidance of irritants can assure a lifelong healthy smile. The following are 5 things you can start doing now to have better oral health in the future.
1. Healthy Gums
Teeth need a sturdy jaw and healthy gums to hold them in place. One of the main reasons for tooth loss is periodontal disease, which is a disease affecting the areas surrounding the teeth. Examples of periodontal disease include gingivitis, receding gums, and jawbone deterioration.
Receding gums can leave the roots of the teeth exposed, leaving them prone to decay and infection and eventually leading to tooth loss.
Age itself is not the cause of periodontal disease. Rather, plaque builds up over time and the disease goes unnoticed and worsens without proper treatment.
Keeping plaque off your teeth with regular brushing, flossing, and routine dental visits can help prevent periodontal disease. If caught early, gum disease can be treated with antibiotics and the removal of plaque and infected gum tissue. For severe cases, surgery may be needed.
2. Regular Brushing and Flossing
As we get older, brushing and flossing become more important than ever. Teeth lose enamel over time due to wear, leaving them susceptible to plaque and decay.
It is recommended to brush with an electric soft-bristle toothbrush twice a day. These specifications are even more important as we age. Hard bristles are tough on the gums and can contribute to a receding gum line.
You should brush your teeth at a 45-degree angle to assure your gums are cleaned, but not brush too aggressively on the gums. If you have arthritis pain or other physical disabilities that make brushing hard, an electronic toothbrush can take away some of the strain of brushing.
If flossing isn’t already part of your daily routine, it is never too late to start. Almost one-third of your teeth are not touched by brushing alone, leaving plaque in your mouth that leaves cavities and gum disease. It is recommended you floss at least once a day. Make sure the floss is scraping each side of your tooth and reaching your gums for maximum plaque removal.
3. Regular Cleanings
Brushing and flossing remove plaque from the mouth but usually leave a little bit of plaque behind. Plaque can harden into tartar, a hardened cavity-causing substance. Tartar can’t be removed with brushing alone; it can only be removed with professional teeth cleaning.
Teeth cleanings can be something that is set to the side if you have a long list of medical appointments, but they are extremely important to maintaining teeth and overall oral health. Cleanings are usually paired with a dental examination where a dentist can check the overall status of your dental health. Not only are your teeth cleaned, but your mouth is assessed for risk of gum disease, oral infections, cancer, and bone disease.
4. Maintain Dental Work
Old Dental Work
Dental work such as fillings, crowns, and implants can last a long time with proper care, but do not necessarily have a lifetime guarantee. Have your dentist check your previous dental work for need of replacement.
Dentistry is a rapidly evolving field; some of your dental work may be outdated and have a shorter lifespan than newer procedures and methods. Maintaining your old dental work directly impacts your overall oral health.
You may need dentures in the future or already have a partial or a full denture. With proper care, dentures can last the rest of your life. Part of that proper care is visiting a dentist if you notice anything irregular.
If you experience any soreness, bad breath, or discomfort, consult with your dentist. Always keep your dentures clean according to your dentist’s care instructions to prevent any issues.
5. Healthy Diet
A healthy diet is great for your overall health, including your oral health. Sugary processed foods stay on the teeth and eat away at your enamel over time. Fruits and vegetables contain healthy vitamins and minerals that can strengthen teeth.
Also, including low-fat dairy in your diet increases your protein and calcium intake. This not only improves the strength of your teeth but also your overall bone health.
Maintaining your oral health is not only for aesthetic reasons or for avoiding dentures. Your oral health is tied directly to overall health. There is increasing evidence linking inflammation of the gums to diabetes, stroke, heart disease, and respiratory problems. It is hypothesized bacteria from the gums can travel through the bloodstream to other parts of the body. Also, many methods for improving oral health are good for preventing illnesses beyond the mouth.
We are fortunate to live in a day and age of modern dentistry where it is becoming more and more common to maintain our natural teeth. With proper care and routine visits to your local dentist at Valley Ridge Dental Centre, you can maintain your teeth for a lifetime – call us today to schedule an appointment at our NW Calgary dental clinic.