If cared for properly, your teeth could last a lifetime. Still, aging brings new concerns for your oral health, such as an increased risk of decay, tooth loss, mouth infections, gum disease and oral cancer. Luckily, regular maintenance and the proper tools can make a big difference in keeping your mouth healthy longer. Check out these 6 tips for keeping your smile shining well into your golden years.
1. Get the Right Tools
Often, your body will go through changes as you get older and getting to those hard to reach places in your mouth and getting them clean can become its own challenge. If you prefer a manual toothbrush, look into getting one with fine, soft bristles that won’t damage your shrinking gum line. If dexterity is a problem, consider an electric toothbrush and different flossing tools that improve your reach. Toothbrushes with wider handles are easier to maneuver and may give you better control.
2. See Your Dentist
As you age, the nerves in your teeth become smaller which means less sensitivity, and that makes cavities harder to catch early on. Keeping up with your twice-yearly dental visits are vital in staying ahead of tooth decay before it turns into a bigger problem. Another big tip: keep your dentist up-to-date on what medications you’re taking, as those can affect your mouth in different ways.
3. Don’t Let Dry Mouth Damage Your Health
Speaking of medications, certain medications can cause dry mouth, which creates the perfect environment for tooth decay to evolve in. In fact, the ADA has found that dry mouth is a symptom listed in over 500 medications, from allergies to high blood pressure, to anxiety and Alzheimer’s.
Long term, you should talk to your primary care doctor about adjusting your dosages, drink plenty of water and talk to your dentist about which oral moisturizer is best for you. If you’re in need of a quick fix, try chewing sugar-free gum or sucking on sugar-free lozenges to promote saliva production.
4. Be Proactive About Plaque
There’s a lot that regular visits to your dentist can help prevent, including hard-to-catch periodontal disease. Often, gum disease is painless until it becomes advanced. Luckily, your dentist can help you spot the warning signs before this becomes a problem! Periodontal disease is caused by the bacteria in plaque, making gums irritated and more likely to bleed. When gums recede they leave more of your tooth exposed where plaque can collect, causing decay. In the worst cases, untreated gum disease can destroy the gums, bone and ligaments holding your teeth in place.
Pay special attention to this tip if you’re on medications like calcium channel blockers or anti-seizure medication. Those medications can inflame your gums, making them red, puffy and uncomfortable, putting you at greater risk for periodontal disease.
5. Keep Ahead of Cancer
While the American Cancer Society reports that there are about 35,000 cases of mouth, throat and tongue cancer each year, the early signs of oral cancer are often subtle. It’s mostly found in adults over the age of 40, with 62 being the average age of diagnosis. Oral cancer can make anyone nervous, but when caught early it’s highly treatable.
Take the initiative to get ahead of oral cancer by getting familiar with your mouth and what’s normal for you. See your dentist if you notice a red or white patch or a lump inside your mouth, on your lip or tongue that lasts for more than two weeks or fails to heal. As part of your periodic exams, your dentist should check for any of these signs. Let your dentist know if you’ve noticed any changes or have concerns.
6. Make Sure You’re Covered
Retirement can mean a lot of changes to your schedule, but you should make sure continuing to see the dentist is part of your plan. Currently, Medicare doesn’t cover routine dental care so it’s important to have backup coverage. One option is buying dental coverage through organizations like AARP, which offer individual coverage with a range of benefits. Another choice is to apply for Care Credit, which we accept at all Dental Depots. If you have concerns about keeping your dental care affordable, talk to your dentist. They might be able to give you suggestions on what benefit coverage would be best for you based on your oral health needs.
Knowing and understanding the risks your mouth is facing as you age is paramount to staying ahead of disease and damage. If cared for properly, your teeth can last a lifetime. Continuing to brush twice daily and floss once a day, eating a nutritious diet and drinking plenty of water will go a long way in keeping your teeth in tip-top shape. Above all, stay proactive about your health. Ask plenty of questions and get clarification when you need it. By maintaining these healthy habits, you and your teeth—whether they be natural, implants, bridges or dentures—can keep on smiling for many years to come.
***Dental Depot does not endorse nor receive compensation by recommending AARP or Care Credit.