Many people think that as you age, tooth loss is inevitable. However, you can actually keep most (if not all) of your teeth if you take care of them properly. Oral health problems tend to worsen as a person ages, but studies also show that many adults don’t take proper care of their teeth. Tooth decay and gum disease become more common and so does losing your teeth due to chronic health conditions. Age and chronic conditions can affect your oral health. However, you can still keep your mouth as healthy as possible by learning how to take care of your teeth as you age. Learn what to expect from your oral health after age 55 and how you can take care of your teeth to keep your smile healthy for many more years to come!
Why Brushing and Flossing?
Your oral care routine may change as you age, as an infant’s mouth will have different needs than a teenager with braces or a senior citizen that wears dentures. Your oral care may change over the years, but only slightly. Infants are not initially born with teeth, so teeth brushing will not immediately start when life starts. However, once an infant gets their first tooth, parents should brush that tooth (and all subsequent teeth) several times a day. They should also wipe the gums with a wet cloth to remove sugars and food particles that cause tooth decay in baby teeth. Every person must continue these basic habits of brushing and flossing throughout life.
These two habits are the most basic oral hygiene practices to keep your mouth healthy. The American Dental Association recommends that every person brush their teeth at least twice a day, if not more. Why? Because when you eat, sugar in your mouth mixes with bacteria in your mouth to form plaque. This is a sticky, clear substance that coats your teeth and is acidic in nature. That acid works to erode your tooth enamel, weakening it and causing decay. That decay happens over time, however, so if you are brushing and flossing your teeth often, you can expect to have little to no decay in your teeth.
Tooth Decay and Gum Disease
Even though brushing and flossing only take a few minutes of your day, these oral care recommendations are largely skipped over. In fact, tooth decay (also known as “cavities”) is the most prevalent chronic disease among children and adults in the U.S. Sadly, it is one of the most preventable diseases as well. Cavities may seem like a small issue, but they can grow large in your mouth. The only way to remove them is to remove the decayed tooth and fill it with something in its place. Severe tooth decay from lack of oral hygiene practices can lead to complete tooth loss.
Not brushing and flossing also leads to gum disease. Plaque coats your teeth and sits along your gum line. That plaque’s acid irritates your gums, causing them to become red, swollen and to eventually recede. With enough recession, your teeth will begin to fall out. The bad part is that patients with gum disease may not even be able to have dental implants or dentures because their gums are too weak and gummy to hold them.
Oral Care as You Age
Many people assume that they will have dentures when they are older. That, however, doesn’t have to be you if you take care of your mouth. Yes, many people do end up with dentures in their later years because they’ve lost most of their teeth (or all their teeth). However, there are millions of people that still have their natural teeth until the day they die. How? They take care of their oral health! We mentioned tooth decay and gum disease. Gum disease affects over 64 million Americans. The sad part? That number only reflects adults in the U.S., many of whom are over age 55. Tooth decay affects millions more.
Many studies show that people simply just don’t brush and floss their teeth, even though these two habits will determine if you keep your teeth or not. Chronic illnesses and conditions can cause changes in the mouth as well, and those conditions generally come about as people age. People also tend to take more medications as they grow older. Many medications can cause oral health changes as well, such as dry mouth. Dry mouth is bad because it robs people of saliva, which bathes your teeth in minerals that your teeth need to stay healthy. Saliva also helps remove food particles that cause decay.
Oral Care Over 55
Whether you are over 55 or only 5 years old, you must always brush and floss your teeth. Fluoride can protect your teeth from decay, so as you age, use a fluoride toothpaste or fluoride rinse every day. Also avoid tobacco and alcohol, as both of these cause oral health problems, disease and cancer. Avoiding these can also lengthen your life. Many people over 55 also find that antibacterial mouthwashes help them decrease the amount of plaque in their mouth. Add this to your routine to decrease tooth decay and gum disease problems.
Lastly, see the dentist at least twice a year, every year without fail! We can help get your medication switched if it causes you dry mouth or oral health problems. We can also detect tooth decay and gum disease early and help make both go away. Taking care of your teeth doesn’t vary too much throughout life, but you have to be vigilant with your oral care if you want to keep your teeth. If you need to schedule your comprehensive oral exam, call Niles Family Dentistry today at (720) 744-0001!