You may have noticed that aging has had some effects on you: your metabolism slows down, your hair greys, and the idea of having enough energy to bound around past 9 p.m. is unthinkable. But what about your mouth – do you know what’s changing in there?
As we age our mouths change just as much as the rest of our bodies, and that means our oral health routines have to change too. We see patients of all ages at Edgewood Dental Care, and one thing we’ve noticed is that older patients don’t always know what they need to do to make their oral care routines complete.
Xerostomia: A Fancy Word For Something Simple
One of the biggest changes that happen in your mouth as you age is xerostomia, also known as a dry mouth. Your saliva glands simply don’t produce as much as they used to when you’re older, and the result is a chronically dry mouth.
Saliva is an essential part of oral health, and without it your chances of developing cavities and gum disease increase drastically. This is a problem for a lot of older people, who see great increases in gum disease rates the older they get. By the time you reach 65 your chances of having gum disease are around one in five!
There are several ways you can fight a dry mouth, but the most effective method seems to be chewing sugar-free gum, especially after meals. Saliva production drops off immediately following eating, which is also one of the most critical times for the health of your mouth. Plaque bacteria is busily producing acids that irritate your gums and erode your teeth after you eat. Keeping them healthy means a good flow of saliva to fight bacteria!
Sugar-free gum stimulates saliva production, and if it’s sweetened with xylitol it’s even better. Xylitol is just as sweet as sugar, yet actually helps your teeth fight bacteria. It prevents bacteria from metabolizing sugar and sticking to teeth, and when combined with an increase in saliva it will just wash away!
Medications: Some Can Cause Oral Health Problems
There are a lot of prescription medications that can cause problems like a dry mouth and thrush, a bacterial infection. If you’re taking prescriptions to manage health conditions be sure you know what side effects they can have on your oral health.
Thrush is commonly caused by inhaled medications, so if you’re using an inhaler for any reason we recommend rinsing your mouth out after use.
Acid Reflux: It Ruins Teeth
Your chances of suffering from GERD or any other condition that causes acid reflux increase as you age. The acid in your stomach is just as – if not more – dangerous as the acid produced by dental plaque. Repeated acid attacks can lead to eroded teeth, damaged gums, and oral bacteria that easily does more damage.
If you’re suffering from acid reflux be sure you’re seeing your doctor and seeking treatment. There’s no real “cure” for chronic acid reflux that isn’t caused by lifestyle, so you need to be on a steady medication regimen that manages it and keeps it from damaging your teeth.
Bone loss can drastically affect your oral health. If you have osteoporosis you may not even notice it, but luckily it’s easier to catch at the dentist then anywhere else.
Dental signs of osteoporosis include bone loss that exposes the roots of your teeth, gum disease, loosening teeth, and difficulty chewing. If you’re experiencing any of these signs you could be suffering from bone loss that in many cases can result in the loss of teeth as well.
Be sure that you’re getting enough calcium and vitamin D, both which are important in fighting bone loss and strengthening the bone you have left. It’s also important to quit smoking, drink less alcohol, and maintain an active lifestyle. Fitness as you age is important, so don’t let a sedentary lifestyle cost you your smile!
An Important Last Step
Keeping your mouth healthy as you age doesn’t have to be difficult as long as you’re getting the proper care. That means seeing us at Edgewood Dental Care every six months, or more depending on your risk factors.
We want to help you keep your smile for as long as you life, and that can only be done with a good preventive dental care regimen. If you want to stay on top of your teeth give us a call today at 859-474-7830 or simply request an appointment online. We look forward to seeing you soon!