Tips for keeping your teeth strong all life long
“Grow old along with me! The best is yet to be.” – poet Robert Browning
Aging is inevitable, and our teeth and gums age right along with us. There’s a common misconception that as you get older you lose teeth and need dentures, but teeth well-taken care-of can last your whole life.
HOW YOUR MOUTH CHANGES
Years of everyday wear and tear take their toll, from chomping down on tough foods and wearing away your enamel, to grinding your teeth while you sleep, to accumulating the sticky bacteria known as plaque.
Plus, as you get older, your mouth naturally dries out, allowing bacteria to thrive without the saliva that helps naturally wash it away. The nerves in your teeth get smaller, too, making you less sensitive to (and aware of) cavities and other dental issues.
WHAT’S THE BIGGEST RISK?
Gum disease. Plaque that has built up in your mouth turns to a harder, tougher substance called tartar, which gives new bacteria a place to thrive. If you ignore plaque buildup, it can lead to gingivitis, the first stage of gum disease, and then a more serious condition called periodontitis, where the bone around your teeth becomes inflamed.
Seniors are also more susceptible to root decay, an uneven jaw caused by tooth loss, and an overgrowth of fungus in the mouth, known as thrush. As you age, you’re also more at risk for oral cancer, but you can reduce that risk by cutting your alcohol and tobacco intake and ensuring your dentist checks your mouth for cancer symptoms every time you visit.
WHAT YOU CAN DO
For starters, maintain good oral hygiene habits, brushing twice a day with soft bristles and flossing at least once daily.
Schedule regular visits with your dentist. Checkups and cleanings help you stay ahead of dental issues and clean out hard-to-reach plaque.
Stay hydrated with tap water, which contains fluoride. Plus, drinking water helps you prevent dry mouth.
- Avoid high-sugar foods. This is especially true if you’ve lost a tooth or two, as the spaces between teeth are even more vulnerable to sugary intruders.
- Drink low-fat dairy products to protect the bones around your teeth and prevent osteoporosis.
In a nutshell, stay up-to-date on your dentist visits, and keep your mouth clean and hydrated and your diet healthy, and you’ll keep your teeth strong for as long as you live. While aging may not be fun, good teeth long-term is something to smile about!