Older adults are keeping their natural teeth longer than ever and the average number of teeth people retain as they age is on the rise, but the longer you keep your teeth, the more likely you are to experience problems. While some oral health problems are common at any age, it's a good idea to pay extra attention to oral care after the age of 50. Here's what you should know about taking care of your teeth after 50 and how your Huntington Park dentist can help.
Why Oral Care is More Important After 50
There are several reasons you need extra care with oral health as you age:
Saliva production falls as you age which causes dry mouth. This increases the risk of tooth decay as saliva reduces the amount of decay-causing bacteria in the mouth. Many medications like blood pressure prescriptions can also decrease saliva producation.
Teeth become brittle with age which makes them more likely to chip or crack. A chipped tooth can allow decay-causing bacteria into the mouth and quickly lead to a cavity.
Health conditions associated with age increase the risk of gum disease and tooth problems. Two conditions deserve special attention: menopause, which can lead to osteoporosis that makes the jawbone thinner and increases the risk of tooth loss and type 2 diabetes, which reduces resistance to infection and makes older adults more susceptible to oral health problems.
Address Dry Mouth
Dry mouth or xerostomia is the most common oral health concern after 50. While aging alone can reduce saliva production, there are several lifestyle changes you can make to help conquer dry mouth. Reduce your intake of coffee, alcohol, and salty foods that can make your mouth dry. Ask your doctor to review your medications and decide whether it's appropriate to switch to different prescriptions that do not cause dry mouth.
Make Sure Your Dentures Fit Correctly
Ill-fitting dentures can lead to thrush, an oral infection of the mouth and throat. Dentures that shift or cause pain and also change your eating habits and make it harder to eat a nutritious diet. If you aren't happy with your dentures, ask your Bell Garden dentist about options available to you. When slipping dentures are a concern, your dentist may recommend implant-secured dentures which do not move or fall out.
Flossing and Mouth Wash Are Important
You've probably heard someone described as being "long in the tooth," but you may not realize that this idiom is literal: as we age, our teeth appear to lengthen. Of course, the teeth don't actually get longer with age. This appearance is caused by naturally receding gums, which increase the risk of cavities along the exposed roots of the teeth. Make sure you stay on top of mouth wash, flossing, and brushing to prevent cavities if your gums are receding.
Consider Implants After Tooth Loss
When a tooth is lost and it is not replaced with a prosthetic or implant, your jawbone can begin to deterioriate. Tooth loss that isn't replaced, especially when several teeth are lost, is the most common cause of bone loss and it occurs because the jone bone is preserved and strengthened through chewing and the pressure exerted by the roots of your teeth. If you have lost one or more teeth, ask your Bell dentist if you are a good candidate for dental implants which help preserve your jaw bone while restoring the appearance and function of your teeth.
Gum Disease is Preventable
About half of all adults have periodontal disease in the United States, but more than 70% of seniors have gum disease. When it isn't treated, gum disease can become very serious and lead to advanced periodontitis, gums that separate from the teeth, bone loss, tooth loss, and even a higher risk of systemic problems like heart disease. The best way to prevent gum disease is to visit your dentist regularly for checkups and cleanings to remove plaque from your teeth before it infiltrates your gums.
Maintaining healthy teeth and gums after 50 may take a bit more care, but addressing these common areas of concern can help you preserve your beautiful smile for years to come. Contact your Huntington Park dentist at Gage Dental Care today to schedule your regular checkup and get personalized advice for addressing your concerns.