Your whole body transforms in dramatic ways as you get older, but did you know that teeth also undergo a lot of changes? Knowing what to expect when it comes to your pearly whites, and having an understanding of aging teeth problems, will help you stay in control so you can keep your gums strong and your smile bright.
Below is a short list of some of the main things that can happen to the teeth and gums as you age.
As your body gets older, cells begin to renew more slowly, bones are no longer as strong or dense as they used to be, the immune system becomes weaker, and the tissues of the body become less elastic and thinner than they were in the past. All of these changes can affect the health of your teeth and gums in various ways.
Once you hit your golden years, you might be more prone to the following:
Gum problems – Seniors might have higher odds of developing gingivitis and more advanced gum disease. Risk factors include poor oral hygiene, diabetes, a weak immune system, dry mouth, and smoking.
You might look in the mirror and start to notice that your gums are swollen or receding, exposing more of the teeth and making it easier for harmful bacteria to wreak havoc.
Left untreated, gum disease can lead to tooth loss, and you might end up needing dentures, bridges, or implants to replace missing teeth. So it’s important to talk to your dentist about what you can do to strengthen the gums again.
Dry mouth – If you’re experiencing dry mouth, see your doctor to figure out the cause. For example, there are hundreds of medications that seniors take for a wide range of health problems, and those prescriptions might result in dry mouth as a side effect.
Relieving dry mouth is important, as it may lead to the development of cavities if not treated. Plus, it may also increase the risk of gum disease, thrush, mouth sores, and trouble chewing, tasting, and swallowing.
What are some of the steps you can take to combat dry mouth? Well, you could try drinking more water, chewing on sugar-free gum, using mouthwash, avoiding any foods and beverages that irritate your mouth, and talking to your doctor about switching to a medication that doesn’t cause dry mouth as a side effect.
Cavities – Even if you didn’t get cavities often while you were young, now that you’re older, you might be more susceptible to tooth decay. This increased risk may be the result of no longer taking care of your teeth and gums as well as you used to, or it might be because you have receding gums or dry mouth.
Another change that occurs with age: the enamel, which is the tough outer layer of the teeth, begins to wear away more and more. This, in turn, may also increase your susceptibility to decay and cavities. Not fun!
It’s scary but true: oral cancer risk increases when you’re a senior. In terms of prevention, one of the best steps you can take immediately is to quit smoking or using tobacco products. Another step you can take is reducing the amount of alcohol that you drink.
What else can you do? See your dentist regularly for checkups, and make an appointment right away if you start to experience any strange symptoms. Your dentist will be able to examine your mouth to look for the earliest signs of cancer. Plus, because poor oral hygiene may boost the risk of oral cancer, your dentist can see how well you’re keeping up with your at-home routine and let you know if you need to make any adjustments to it.
There are a lot of problems that can develop in your mouth as you get older, which is why senior dental care is so important.
Worried about being able to afford expensive dental treatments, especially if you’re on a fixed income? The solution is simple: having insurance, particularly when you’re older and more susceptible to developing oral health ailments, is wise.
Plans for seniors will allow you to save loads of money every time you visit the dentist. And they can help even more if you ever need major services like dental implants. Plus, high-quality policies like those offered by Spirit Dental can give you access to three cleanings per year, which is great because it’s important for seniors to see the dentist more often.
Remember, no matter your age, seeing your dentist regularly can help prevent problems before they occur, or at least treat them in their earliest stages. And following a strict oral hygiene routine at home can also help you maintain the health of your mouth for as long as possible.