As you age, it becomes increasingly important that you take care of yourself. With age, your body experiences changes from wrinkles to grey hair. But did you know that the changes you experience as you become older can have all sorts of effects on oral health too?
Turns out, oral health and aging go hand in hand. As you age, the wear and tear on your smile can become more prominent if you are not actively taking steps to keep your teeth and gums in check. Brushing your teeth at least twice a day and flossing regularly will work wonders for your gums. But on the contrary, neglecting your oral care routine will cause all kinds of health problems that can’t be fixed with a simple trip to the dentist.
If you are an adult 65 years of age or older, you should be paying extra attention to your oral health. Be on the lookout for these 6 oral health concerns:
6 Oral Health Concerns to Lookout for as You Age
Most often, tooth darkening occurs as a natural effect of aging. With age, the outer hard substance covering your teeth, called enamel, wears away to expose the dentin hiding beneath it. Dentin is darker in colour and, as enamel wears away, can make teeth appear gray or yellow rather than white.
The best way to prevent this from happening to you is to try your best to protect your enamel by avoiding acidic beverages, rinsing your mouth regularly and minimizing symptoms of GERD or acid reflux.
Dry mouth, or Xerostomia, is more prevalent in the aging population. Though many believe dry mouth is a normal part of aging – it is not. Experts claim the main reason that dry mouth is more prevalent in those 65 and older is because this age group consumes more medications compared with the rest of the population, and many of these medications cause Xerostomia.
Ultimately, dry mouth happens when you are not producing enough saliva to keep your mouth wet. This can cause a number of health related problems when it comes to teeth and gums as saliva contains minerals like calcium and phosphate that protect the teeth’s enamel.
If you are experiencing dry mouth, try rinsing your mouth with water more frequently and/or holding water in your mouth for ten seconds before swallowing to help increase saliva flow. If you believe your symptoms of dry mouth are caused by a medication, talk to your doctor about altering your dosage or prescribing an alternate medication.
As you age, the nerves in your teeth become smaller, making you less sensitive to cavities and other oral health concerns. If you are 65 years of age or older, you should continue to visit your dentist regularly to be certain your teeth you are cavity free.
It’s also vital that you have a good toothbrush and that you USE IT to brush your teeth twice a day… minimum!
In some of our older patients, we have noticed that muscle aches and pains have caused them to abandon their oral care routine all together. That said, with age comes osteoporosis, arthritis and other muscle – or movement – related health issues that can make brushing challenging. If you have a health concern that makes brushing your teeth a challenge, consider an electric toothbrush to simplify the process and ensure you’re still making the most of your oral hygiene routine.
Many people assume that losing teeth is a natural part of the aging process… but not so fast! You may be surprised to learn that “adult teeth” don’t die. If you lose one of your permanent teeth, it’s likely due to tooth decay or trauma. So when you require an implant, bridge, or even dentures to replace those missing teeth, you’re more than likely the one to blame. Tooth loss is not a sign of aging, but rather a sign that you’re neglecting to take proper care of your teeth!
If properly taken care of, your teeth can last a lifetime. Unfortunately with age, many people neglect their oral care routine and give up on diet and good health practices. I suppose that old dental quote holds true: “You don’t have to clean all your teeth every day – just the ones you want to keep.”
Cancer in the mouth, throat and tongue, etc., can be life threatening if not diagnosed and treated early. According to the Canadian Cancer Society, an estimated 4,700 Canadians will be diagnosed with oral cancer by the end of 2017. Generally, the earlier oral cancer is diagnosed and treated, the better the outcome.
As you age, it’s critical that you continue to attend your regularly scheduled check-ups with your dentist. Your dentist can play an important role in the early detection of oral cancer as a dentist may notice subtle changes in the mouth that a patient might miss. In addition, an oral cancer screening will be performed by your dentist during your exam. This screening is fast and painless – and ultimately, could save your life.
If you have any of the following symptoms that persist for more than two weeks, be sure to see your dentist or your physician sooner rather than later:
- A sore, irritation, lump, or thick patch in the mouth, lip, or throat
- A feeling that something is caught in the throat
- Tongue pain or numbness
- Jaw pain or stiffness
- Difficult or painful swallowing
- Difficult or painful chewing
- Swelling of the jaw that causes dentures to fit poorly or become uncomfortable
- Pain in one ear without hearing loss
Note: Often these symptoms do not mean cancer, but it’s important to get them checked out if they persist!
Periodontal (Gum) Disease
Commonly, older adults who neglect their regular dental visits find themselves suffering from gum, or periodontal disease. Periodontal disease is caused by bacteria in plaque that forms on the teeth. This plaque needs to be removed regularly or it can irritate the gums, causing them to become red, swollen, and maybe even bleed. If left untreated, this infection can spread and destroy the structures that support your teeth in your jaw bone.
The good news is that with regular dental visits gum disease can be treated or prevented entirely.
Signs of gum disease can include:
- Gums bleeding when you brush your teeth
- Gums that recede from your teeth
- Bad Breathe
- Loose teeth
- Sensitive teeth
- Tender, swollen gums
Bottom Line: There is a strong relationship between oral health and aging. If you let your age get in the way of a proper oral health care routine, you run the risk of effecting your physical health as a whole.
If you are 65 years of age or older and haven’t visited the dentist in the past 6 to 9 months, its time you get back on track!
Call us today at (905)-545-4833 to book your next appointment.
No matter your age, dental condition, and if you have a million questions, Dr. Sims can assist you or your young children in a professional manner and loves answering any of your questions or concerns.
Dr. Sims grew up in Grimsby playing basketball, so he’s always up for talking about the Raptors! He’s also a football fan - go Buffalo Bills! In his free time, if he’s not watching a basketball game or football game, you’ll likely find him working out, cooking (got any new recipe ideas?), and of course, spending time with his amazing family.