As you age, your oral health often changes. If you don’t take care of your teeth and gums, you can experience oral health problems that could lead to serious medical problems, such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease, dementia, cancer, or respiratory infections.
Six reasons why you should take care of your teeth as you age:
- Gum disease – Your gums naturally recede as you age, exposing tooth surfaces and roots to bacteria that can cause decay. Regular dental exams and teeth cleaning, as well as daily toothbrushing, flossing and using a non-alcoholic fluoride mouth rinse, will help keep decay under control. Your dentist also may also recommend deep cleaning of your teeth to remove plaque that can develop under your gums.
- Dry mouth – Some medications, along with age, can slow the production of saliva and cause dry mouth. Saliva keeps your mouth moist and naturally washes tooth surfaces to remove food particles that can lead to decay. To keep it flowing, drink water throughout the day, chew sugar-free gum and avoid using mouth rinse that contains alcohol because it can dry oral tissues.
- Brittle teeth – As you age, tooth enamel can become brittle and crack. Protect your teeth by choosing foods that are easy to chew, and avoid biting hard substances, such as crusty bread, ice chips, and popcorn hulls. If you experience pain while eating foods or drinking beverages, contact your dentist.
- Plaque – Arthritis and other medical conditions can attack your fingers, creating difficulties when using a toothbrush or flossing your teeth. If this is a problem you experience, talk to your dentist about using floss picks or water flossers to keep plaque under control.
- Sensitive teeth – Over time, your teeth may become easily irritated by regular toothpaste, foods, and beverages. Dental experts recommend using mouth rinse and toothpaste made for sensitive teeth. Schedule regular dental checkups to ensure that tooth sensitivity is not related to decay or other oral problems.
- Implants and bridges – Food particles and bacteria can become trapped in implants and bridges and cause tooth decay. Use floss threaders to clean under and around these appliances. Ask your dentist about using a water flosser or other equipment to remove food particles and plaque. (If you care for your teeth now, you may not need to worry about artificial teeth.)