You’ve heard it said, “Getting old is not for sissies.” Yes, perhaps you’re a bit rickety when you start your morning workout. Okay, your tennis game has slowed down some. But, here’s some good news. As we age, we definitely can control of our “dental destiny.”
AS WE GET OLDER, ARE WE MORE PRONE TO CAVITIES?
Sure, people over 50 can get cavities. You may get them on teeth surfaces that were never a problem before. You can also get them around old fillings. Teeth do not automatically chip or crack just because we’re getting older. So, how can we be proactive?
Flouride can help. If your drinking water is not florinated, you should probably add a daily fluoride rinse to your brushing habit. Or ask about a stronger fluoride prescription gel. Try to cut down on bad habits, too, like chewing ice or constant teeth grinding.
CAN I AVOID GETTING DRY MOUTH?
Saliva protects us against tooth decay. But if you’re not producing it, your teeth may be at risk. The calcium and phosphate present in saliva prevent demineralization of your teeth. Dry mouth is often caused by medications, or from smoking. If you have dry mouth, try to stimulate saliva production by sipping water throughout the day, or by chewing sugar-free gum.
HOW CAN KEEP OUR GUMS HEALTHY?
If your gums are swollen, red, or bleed easily, you’ve got gingivitis, an early form of gum disease that can progress and be dangerous. Untreated gingivitis often becomes periodontitis, (when the gum pulls away from the tooth and creates pockets which can become infected). If this condition develops and continues unchecked, it could cause the loss of bones in your jaw and eventually, the loss of the teeth themselves. Make regular dental visits a priority, so we can keep your teeth clean and monitor your gums. We’re also on the lookout for other telltale symptoms. Your overall health is often reflected in your teeth, gums and throat.
WHY DOES FOOD SEEM TO BE GETTING STUCK IN NEW PLACES IN MY MOUTH?
No, you’re not hallucinating. As you age, your teeth may shift. This could become problematic, because it can make your teeth more difficult to clean, leading to more decay. Also, misaligned teeth can lead to teeth erosion and damage to the supporting tissue and bone. If your teeth have really shifted, you may need to see an orthodontist, who may fit you with a retainer, spacer, or even braces. Let’s discuss it at an upcoming visit.
DOES THE RISK OF ORAL CANCER INCREASE AS I GET OLDER?
Sadly, the incidence of oral cancer increases as you age. Though it is often linked to smoking and heavy alcohol use, in the past few years, the number of cases has risen as doctors discovered the role of the Human Papilloma Virus in oral cancer. The best hope for survival is to discover it at its earliest stages. Again, routine dental exams are crucial.