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Grandma Dee enjoying her hundred and first birthday meal. Lobster Pound - Lincolnville Beach Maine

Grandma Dee enjoying her hundred and first birthday meal. Lobster Pound – Lincolnville Beach Maine

My grandmother passed away at 101 years old.  She always took pride in her appearance.  She was especially proud of her teeth.  How did she keep them so healthy as she aged?  Well, I wasn’t quite sure because grandma loved her sweets and snacks (a big no-no, but she wasn’t going to listen to me). Then I realized; she never missed her teeth brushing and always had her cleanings and dental check-ups.

I started thinking about this the other day when we had a patient come into the office and told us that he felt dental health was the most important thing you could do for yourself for your overall health. I thought, boy, is he right!   Decay and gingivitis are common problems as we get older.  If gingivitis is left untreated, it often becomes periodontitis, which can cause loss of bones in your jaw and eventually, the loss of the teeth themselves.

What happens to your oral care as you age?

One common misconception is that losing your teeth is inevitable. … If cared for properly, your teeth can last a lifetime.  Your mouth changes as you age. The nerves in your teeth can become smaller, making your teeth less sensitive to cavities or other problems.  Saliva helps clean teeth and protects your mouth from decay. But as you get older, your mouth gets drier and your odds of tooth decay go up.

Medications:  More than 1800 medications, both prescription and over-the-counter list dry mouth as a side effect.  Many are common medications, such as antihistamines and antidepressants.  XyliMelts may be helpful.

Transportation:  Patients who no longer drive may find getting a ride to the dentist difficult.  There are many senior services that can help with transportation and your support of getting to the dentist.  Consider asking friends and family to volunteer-or pay them to provide rides.  Sometimes senior organizations, churches, and synagogues have volunteer drivers.

Health Issues:  Health issues may cause getting to the dentist a difficult task.  Having treatments or being tired may make you put the dentist on the back burner, however, keeping up with oral health is important to your overall wellbeing.

Affordability:  There are many discounted senior dental plans available.  Seasons of Smiles offers QDP which is our Quality Dental Plan available to all patients.

We constantly hear patients say that it is so important for them to keep as many of their teeth as possible.

What else can you do?

Cut those sugars and snacks!!  My grandma may have kept all her teeth while she munched on marshmallow peeps, but that doesn’t mean you should.  Limiting your snacks and removing sweets from your diet is very important.  Try cut up fruit as a substitute.

Water, not juice.  A glass of 100% juice a day is fine, but try to find one that does not have added sugar.  Water should make up the rest of your day.

See your dentist for regular check-ups, don’t put off anything that is painful and see your dental hygienist twice a year for cleanings.

Brenda Seeber
Brenda Seeber

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