Time takes a toll
Our mouths change as we age. Nerves can shrink and your teeth become less sensitive, thus making it harder to notice problem areas. Like cavities, which never stop being a threat to our teeth, no matter how old we get. Gum disease is also a major issue. It’s caused by bacteria between the teeth and is the leading cause of tooth loss.
Signs of trouble
Oral cancers are a health concern for everyone but far more likely to affect people over the age of 65. Early detection is a key weapon in the fight against them, so it’s important to watch for changes and problem areas. In addition, your mouth can show early warning signs of many other chronic health conditions, making regular visits to the dentist even more important for older people.
Medications and your mouth
Another source of potential problems is dry mouth. Saliva contains digestive enzymes, acid neutralizers, and bacteria-fighting agents that help protect your teeth. Since mouth dryness is a common side effect of many medications older people need to treat general health issues, adjustments to your prescriptions might be necessary.
Maintain a watchful eye
Fortunately, attention and care are extremely effective tools to keep your mouth healthy. By being aware of some issues facing your teeth and gums, you’re able to combat them and keep smiling as time goes by.
Follow these steps to maintain and improve your oral health:
- Get Regular Checkups – Making periodic visits to your dentist helps you address any potential issues before they become major problems.
- Brush Twice a Day – Or three times. Use a toothbrush with soft bristles. If you wear dentures clean them daily as well.
- Floss Every Day – Clean between your teeth to prevent decay. Use either dental floss or another tool if you prefer.
- Stay Vigilant – Keep an eye out for changes in your mouth. If you notice unusual bumps or sores, contact your dentist right away.
- Quit Smoking – In addition to the risks it poses to your general health, smoking increases the likelihood of oral cancers, gum disease and tooth decay.
Want to know more?
Talk to your dentists about more special considerations for keeping your mouth healthy as you get older.
This is not a complete list. Contact your Oral Care provider for additional information. 3M Oral Care does not provide dental advice, diagnosis or treatment.
Norman Medina DDS, graduated from Loma Linda University Dental School in 1994. He has been practicing dentistry in Midcoast Maine since 1994. He and his wife Lanita have four children.