Karen Kelley RDH
Keeping Your Teeth For a Lifetime
Our dental practice has more over 50 year olds than under 50. As aging adults, we need to be aware of certain things that can keep us from retaining our teeth our entire lives.
Judith Ann Jones, DDS, a spokesman on elder care for the American Dental Association and director of The Center for Clinical Research at the Boston University Goldman School of Dental Medicine spoke about 5 things that are especially important to the over 50 crowd.
Tooth Decay: Contrary to what many people believe, adults keep getting cavities! I’m always surprised when people are stunned to learn they have a cavity as an adult. Areas of the teeth that have never had a cavity can decay, but areas where we see more problems are where an old filling is leaking and at the base of an older crown. The best prevention is brushing well each day along the gumline. An electric toothbrush is very helpful in accomplishing this as well as the use of fluoride. An over the counter fluoride rinse nightly is great and in our office we have special prescription strength fluoride that is wonderful for cavity prevention as well as help with sensitivity.
Dry Mouth: Keeping Your Teeth For a Lifetime We see so many people with this problem. “Saliva protects our teeth. The calcium and phosphate present in saliva prevent demineralization of your teeth”, Jones says. Many drugs cause dry mouth as well as some diseases and as we get older, we are on more medications thus we see this commonly in older adults. This is a difficult one to deal with for those affected. The best thing is to drink lots of water, use saliva substitute and try xylitol products. Also, if you smoke, stop, it just makes your mouth drier.
Gum Disease: If your gums are swollen, red, or bleed easily, you have gum disease. If left untreated, gum disease (gingivitis) will become more serious and will cause deterioration of the bone that holds the teeth, we call this periodontitis. If this condition continues without treatment, it can cause the loss of the teeth. The best way to prevent gum disease is to clean your teeth well each day with brushing, flossing, and use of interdental cleaners like soft picks or go betweens. And of course, seeing your friendly dental hygienist as often as recommended. We can remove the mineralized bacteria from your teeth that you can’t remove with brushing.
Tooth Crowding: “As you age, your teeth shift”, according to Lee W. Graber, D.D.S., M.S, Ph.D., Past President of the American Association of Orthodontists. And “that can be problematic, not because you’ll look different, but because it can make your teeth more difficult to clean, leading to more decay. It’s also of concern because misaligned teeth can lead to teeth erosion and damage to the supporting tissue and bone”, Graber says. “Add to that the tendency of older adults to have periodontal disease, and you could end up losing your teeth even faster.” If your teeth have really shifted, and you find you are having a difficult time keeping your teeth clean and food keeps getting caught in certain areas, ask our doctors about orthodontics. We offer Invisalign to our patients and we’ve had patients in their later years choose to straighten their teeth. I just finished with my invisalign treatment. I had braces when I was a teenager but my teeth had shifted and I was experiencing these problems I just mentioned. I decided to do Invisalign. It’s easy to do and my teeth are so much straighter. They are now in the correct alignment and my teeth and gums will be healthier. If you choose not to do orthodontics, more frequently exams and cleanings may be necessary.
Oral Cancer: According to The Oral Cancer Foundation, more than 43,000 Americans will be diagnosed with oral cancers this year, and more than 8,000 will die from it. “Oral cancer incidence definitely increases as you get older”, Jones says, and “is very often linked to smoking and heavy alcohol use.” Jones also said, “Only about half of people who develop oral cancer survive the disease.” If discovered early, there is an 80 percent chance of surviving for five years. When we do your periodic exams when you come in for your cleaning, you will be checked for oral cancer. We also offer Velscope, Identafi, or Oral ID technologies to help in finding oral cancer earlier.
Keep brushing, flossing and smiling! We want to help you keep your teeth healthy your entire lives!
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