How Aging Changes Your Approach To Oral Health
In general, not only are people living longer, but with a little bit of care and preparation, they are also getting a better quality of life at these later ages as well. One great example of this is the growing quality of oral care at later ages. For a while, it seemed like losing teeth when you get older is just a natural part of the aging process, but you now have a higher likelihood than ever to keep your natural teeth for the rest of your life. What older people do need to understand, though, is that they may want to change their oral health approaches slightly to make that happen.
There are a lot of different factors that older people have to deal with that may end up leading to oral health issues or changes in their oral health regimens. These include:
- Comorbid conditions like diabetes and hypertension, as well as general physiological changes.
- A growing amount of prescription or over the counter medications. These raise the likelihood of potential reactions and medication errors.
- Potential impairments that can make it difficult to keep with a regular oral health regimen.
- Specific conditions that can occur as a part of aging, like dry mouth, gum disease, or root caries.
There are a few more general concerns as well when it comes to older people and their teeth. For example, the gumline tends to naturally recede with age, which opens up a new surface that can develop cavities that younger people may not have to deal with. In fact, gum disease is probably the single largest cause of tooth loss in older adults. In some cases, things like ill-fitting dentures can actually increase the risk rather than lower it. In addition, many older people may have fillings from years ago that still need to be replaced. Again, if these aren’t replaced, a chipped or flaky filling can create another environment for decay.
Along with seeing your dentist regularly and brushing as best you can, there are a lot of other good habits you can pick up. For example, dry mouth isn’t just a matter of discomfort, but of tooth health, as as saliva contains a lot of different components that your mouth needs to function. Make sure you’re staying regularly hydrated, and check with your doctor if dry mouth could be caused by one of your medications.
Just like it does for children, diet also plays an important role in keeping your teeth healthy as a senior. You may not necessarily be chowing down on junk food, but looking out for foods that are high in fiber and low in sugar is important. Oral cancer is also something that should be mentioned, as risk tends to increase when you are older. The National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research recommends that you not only have your dentist check for potential signs, but lower tobacco and alcohol intake and wear sunscreen whenever needed.
An important final thing we want to mention is what happens if you end up losing your teeth when you get older. You can still be practicing good oral health techniques and have this happen, for a variety of reasons. According to the following info provided on the 44 West Dental website, you have the option of full or partial dentures. “Full dentures replace all upper and lower teeth. Partial dentures are used when multiple (but not all) teeth have been lost in the upper or lower jaw, relying on existing teeth for support. Both full and partial dentures may be further stabilized in the mouth by securing them to dental implants.
Implants replace a lost tooth or several lost teeth with a dental implant. Working closely with the oral surgeon who places the titanium implant into the jawbone, we create crowns or bridges to complete the restoration after the bone has successfully healed.” If you find yourself deciding exactly what you want to do, be sure to keep a lot of things in mind, from the expense involved to the types of material to the ease of cleaning and maintenance. You still need to take care of your oral health as you get older, just understand that that may evolve. The best thing you can do, though, is keep seeing your dentist regularly through the years, so you continue to have professional care and opinions on what you should do.
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