By Dr. Ricardo S. Bocanegra, DDS –
As you age, your dental hygiene habits become more important than ever for your teeth and gums. Taking care of your teeth — and your dental health overall — is essential for maintaining your health as a senior. A healthy mouth not only makes it easier for you to eat nutritious foods, but it can also give you the confidence to smile, talk, and laugh with ease. Research shows that people with good dental health are less likely to develop diabetes and heart disease or have strokes.
Teeth Change With Age
With proper care, your teeth can last a lifetime. But certain dental health problems are more common in older people, including:
- Tooth decay. Your teeth are coated with enamel, the hard covering that protects them. Bacteria-filled plaque can build up quickly on your tooth enamel, especially when you are older. This can, over time, lead to tooth decay — when the holes called cavities develop in your teeth. In older adults, tooth decay is more likely to develop around old fillings.
- Gum disease. Older people are at higher risk of gum disease, which is also called periodontal disease. Gum disease occurs when plaque builds up beneath your gum line. If you have gum disease, your gums may feel tender and will bleed easily. Left untreated, gum disease can lead to tooth loss.
- Root caries. Root caries occur when the roots of your teeth become decayed, usually after gums recede and the soft root surface of your tooth is exposed. This root surface is more susceptible to decay than tooth enamel.
- Dry mouth. Dry mouth, which is also called xerostomia, often occurs in older people who have health problems, as a side effect of medication or from a cancer treatment like radiation therapy. When you have a reduced supply of saliva, plaque tends to build up, putting you at increased risk of tooth decay.
- Denture problems. Many older people wear dentures. If they are not properly cared for, they can cause dental health problems. Dentures can also become loose or damaged, which can cause them to fall out or irritate your gums.
Tips for Taking Care of Your Dental Health
To help keep your mouth healthy and strong as you get older:
- Brush. Brushing your teeth can help to remove the thin film of bacteria that builds up on your teeth each day. So brush at least twice a day with a soft bristle toothbrush and fluoride toothpaste.
- Floss. Flossing your teeth can help keep your gums strong and prevent plaque from building up between teeth. Floss at least once a day.
- Keep up with dentist appointments. Your dentist can diagnose and treat dental health problems before they become serious. Regular dental check-ups and cleanings are an important part of maintaining good dental health.
- If you smoke, quit. In addition to increasing your risk of many health conditions, smoking can increase your risk of tooth decay and gum disease. If you smoke, talk with your doctor about strategies for quitting.
- Take care of dentures. If you have dentures, see your dentist regularly to make sure they are fitting properly. Keep your dentures clean by brushing them daily and soaking them at night in a denture cleansing liquid.
You may face dental health challenges as you get older, but practicing good oral hygiene and attending to your dental health can keep you smiling for many years to come.
Helping You Reach Your Highest Level of Oral Health
At Porto Fino Dental, we provide quality dentistry for people of all ages, offering a wide ranges of services, including: preventive dentistry, cosmetic and restorative dentistry and implant and reconstructive dentistry. We take pride in being a patient-centered practice, doing everything possible to make your visit a fun, educational and fruitful experience.
Let us help you reach your highest level of oral health possible so you can enjoy the benefits of a strong, attractive smile. To learn more or to schedule an appointment, please call us at 239-482-8806 or visit us online at www.portofinodental.org.