As we age, maintaining your oral health can become more challenging. Various physiological changes, coupled with lifestyle factors, can significantly impact the health of our teeth and gums. Let's find out how aging affects oral health, why it matters, and what proactive measures you can take to protect your smile as you age.
The Unavoidable Impact of Aging on Oral Health
Unfortunately, about 68% of adults aged 65 or older have some form of gum disease, while 20% have lost all of their natural teeth, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
The risk of oral health difficulties increases with age due to various factors. Here are just some of the issues that become more problematic as we age:
- Reduced saliva production can be a contributing factor for dry mouth, creating an environment where bacteria thrive.
- Receding gums, a common issue among older adults, can expose the roots at the base of your teeth, making them susceptible to decay.
- Over time, tooth enamel is worn away, leaving teeth susceptible to decay.
- Systemic conditions like diabetes, heart disease, or arthritis can also negatively impact oral health.
Proactive Measures for Healthy Aging
Now that we understand the link between aging and oral health, let's explore ways to preserve your oral health as you age.
Regular Dental Check-ups
Regular dental check-ups are crucial, no matter your age. These appointments allow your dentist the opportunity to identify potential problems early and take corrective action. Many dental issues, when caught early, can be reversed or treated with minimally invasive measures that protect your natural teeth and gums as much as possible. The more healthy and intact those structures are, the better chance of better outcomes down the line.
Aim for at least two check-ups with your dentist per year. Remember to keep in mind that prevention is always your best bet. Discuss any changes in your health with your provider. For instance, if you're starting a new medication, ensure your dentist is aware, as some drugs can impact oral health.
A nutrient-rich diet can help keep your teeth and gums healthy. Make sure you get your recommended intake of calcium and vitamin D. Choose whole foods as much as possible. Lean proteins, a variety of vegetables and fruits, healthy fats, and whole grains are the foundation of a tooth-healthy diet. Avoid too many sugary drinks and snacks, as these can lead to tooth decay.
There is a reason drinking water comes up time and time again when talking about health. It can improve oral health as well. Water is the best choice as it washes away food particles and bacteria, cleansing teeth naturally. As we mentioned, limit sugary drinks as much as possible.
Drinking a sufficient amount of water throughout the day can help combat dry mouth, a common issue among older adults. If you are experiencing severe dry mouth, discuss this with your dentist, as we can recommend treatments as well as lifestyle changes to help manage the discomfort and symptoms of dry mouth.
Oral Hygiene Routine
A consistent oral hygiene routine is critical. Brush twice a day. Choose a soft-bristled toothbrush that will be gentle on gums. Floss daily and try using an antimicrobial mouthwash to help eliminate bacteria. If mobility issues are making it hard to brush or floss, talk to us about other options.
Smoking can lead to several oral health issues, including gum disease and oral cancer. It is a leading cause of early tooth loss due to decay. If you are a smoker, consider seeking help to quit.
It's Never Too Late
Aging might be inevitable, but oral health issues associated with it aren't. You have the power to influence your oral health. Understanding the link between aging and oral health lets us adopt proactive measures to mitigate the risks.
If you have any concerns about your oral health or if you want to learn more about maintaining optimal oral health as you age, reach out to us today.