As you get older, you may find yourself experiencing more dental problems. Your teeth and gums go through slight changes, and a lifetime of various oral habits can begin to have a noticeable impact. Here are some of the problems you should be looking out for, and what changes you can make to your dental care routine which will help you to prevent them.
Common Dental Problems in Older Age
- Receding Gums: As you age, your gums can recede and this can make your teeth a little more sensitive.
- Darkened Teeth: Changes in dentin – the bone tissue that underlies the tooth enamel – can darken the teeth. A lifetime of consuming stain-causing foods and beverages may also be taking its toll.
- Root Decay: Your eating habits may also have caused tooth decay, which can reach the tooth’s roots when gum tissue recedes.
- Gum Disease: There are a lot of lifetime oral habits that can eventually lead to gum disease. These include poor diet, food left in teeth, use of tobacco products, poor-fitting bridges and dentures, and certain diseases such as anaemia and cancer.
- Tooth Loss: Gum disease can lead to tooth loss, which can then cause uneven jawbone.
- Dry Mouth: Dry mouth is caused by reduced saliva flow, which is usually the result of certain diseases or medications.
Essential Dental Care Tips
The above problems aren’t inevitable – you just need to know how to look after your teeth effectively enough to avoid them. Practising good oral hygiene is important no matter what your age, so looking after your teeth as you get older typically involves doing everything you’re supposed to do at any age, including the following:
- Brush your teeth at least twice a day with a toothpaste which contains fluoride. Fluoride strengthens the tooth enamel and reduces the amount of acid produced on your teeth, helping to prevent tooth decay.
- If you suffer from sensitivity, ask your dentist about prescription fluoride toothpaste. This contains a higher proportion of fluoride and may help with age related dental problems.
- Floss at least once a day. This helps to remove plaque from the areas between your teeth that your toothbrush can’t reach.
- Limit your intake of sugary foods and drinks, which cause tooth decay if consumed too often.
- Visit your dentist regularly for examinations and cleaning to make sure you’re looking after your teeth properly and to keep on top of any problems that arise.
Sticking with these habits is the best way to avoid most dental problems, including tooth loss which some incorrectly believe is an unavoidable part of ageing.
If receding gums are causing you problems, discuss this with your dentist, who can show you the best brushing method to keep any gum problems under control, and may suggest a mouthwash to help with sensitivity. If problems with your hands, arms or eyesight are making it difficult for you to clean your teeth properly, your dentist can give you advice on the best aids to use.
Asking your dentist for guidance is also important if you have dry mouth, because having less saliva can leave your teeth less protected against tooth decay. You may be recommended special products like artificial saliva, which are available in most pharmacies.
What to Expect During Dental Examinations
During your regular dental check-ups, your dentist will typically ask the following questions:
- Have you noticed any recent changes in your mouth?
- Have you noticed any loose or sensitive teeth?
- Are you having any difficulty tasting, chewing or swallowing?
- Have you experienced any pain, discomfort or bleeding in your mouth?
- Have you noticed any lumps, bumps or swelling in your mouth?
Your dentist will then carry out the usual examination of your teeth and gums, and may also check your face and neck, your bite, your jaw, your lymph nodes and salivary glands, your inner cheeks and your tongue. If you wear dentures, your dentist will also look for any signs that they’re causing irritation or damage.
Dental problems can cause a lot of pain and discomfort, so make sure you keep doing everything you can to prevent them. Make sensible dietary choices, practise good oral hygiene and don’t skip your regular oral examinations. Ageing doesn’t have to come with dental problems if you keep up these good habits.
Additionally, a recent study has suggested that good dental habits could ward off Alzheimer’s.
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