Did lockdown damage my teeth? 3 possible problems
23rd September 2020
As we wonder whether we'll end up in another lockdown (let's try to make sure that doesn't happen) we're able… read more
There’s no doubt that aging affects our bodies. And our teeth and mouth are no exception. But, just as we can take care of our body through regular exercise and eating well, there’s plenty we can do to look after our teeth and mouth as we get older. Here we share a few tips to help preserve aging teeth and keep our mouth healthy as the years go by.
We can still get cavities. And, because the nerves in our teeth usually shrink as we get older, less-sensitive teeth can mean problems go undetected for longer. Tooth enamel wears away throughout our lives, and drinking fizzy or acidic drinks (even fruit juice) especially when the drink is sweet, will speed up the process.
Dental tip: it’s really important to keep up a good oral health routine. Daily brushing with a fluoride toothpaste and flossing between teeth will help keep plaque at bay. Try and incorporate extra fluoride into your oral health routine too, either with a mouthwash, or ask your dentist to apply a fluoride gel or varnish to help preserve strong enamel.
Periodontal disease is a preventable disease of the gums which, if untreated, can cause significant damage to our teeth, mouth and overall health. A build-up of plaque on our teeth makes our gums red, irritated, swollen and prone to bleeding.
Gum disease is often painless until in the advanced stages. If left untreated, our gums can recede away from our teeth, forming pockets which can harbour food and bacteria. Advanced gum disease can destroy our gums, bones and the ligaments supporting our teeth, which can lead to tooth loss. Moreover, recent medical studies have linked advanced gum disease to other serious conditions, including Alzheimer’s disease, arthritis and strokes.
Dental tip: dentists, hygienists and therapists are trained to spot the early signs of gum disease – so attending regular appointments is important. In the meantime, if our gums develop any sign of redness, irritation, or begin bleeding, we should get checked out straight away.
Dry mouth is a common side effect of a wide range of prescription and non-prescription drugs – including medication for high blood pressure, asthma, pain, anxiety and depression. This is bad news for our teeth, which depend on the calcium and phosphates in our saliva to help protect them. Even if we don’t take medication, our production of saliva tends to decrease as we age, leading to increased risk of tooth decay and other oral health problems.
Dental tip: it’s a good idea to drink plenty of tap water. Also, a pharmacist can suggest over-the-counter dry-mouth remedies, such as sprays and mouthwashes. Avoid coffee, tea, alcohol and sugary drinks, all of which can irritate your mouth, and try chewing sugar-free gum to help stimulate saliva production. If dry mouth persists, we should ask our doctor to review our medication.
Tooth loss is a common, but not inevitable, sign of aging. If we wear full or partial dentures, it’s important to clean them thoroughly every day, and take them out of our mouth completely for at least four hours, preferably overnight. We should pay particular attention to the health of our gums. Regular dental check-ups are still crucial to help spot early signs of gum disease and mouth cancer, both of which are preventable if caught early enough.
Dental tip: dentures should fit well and not irritate our gums. We must look out for any changes, soreness or redness in our gums, and continue to practice excellent oral care to preserve our natural teeth.
Tooth decay, gum irritation and worn enamel can all make our teeth feel sensitive. If our teeth become sensitive we find drinking hot or cold drinks painful, and our teeth might even hurt if we brush them too hard.
Dental tip: the best way to avoid sensitive teeth is good care. We should keep up a good oral health routine of brushing and flossing. In addition, we should reduce (or cut out) sugary, fizzy drinks and definitely stop smoking. A dentist can also recommend a toothpaste which can help make our teeth feel less sensitive.
It’s a sad fact that rates of oral cancer peak in older people. Half of the head and neck cancer cases in the UK each year are diagnosed in people aged 65 and over. An estimated 91% of oral cancers in the UK are linked to lifestyle factors such as smoking, alcohol and infections. During a regular check-up, a dentist reviews soft tissue for any signs of cancer. As 93% of oral cancer cases are preventable it’s important to attend regular dental examinations.
Dental tip: diets high in fruit and vegetables are believed to help protect against head and neck cancer. There’s no getting away from the fact that eating plenty of fruit and vegetables benefits is one of the most beneficial steps you can take to keeping your whole body, including your mouth and teeth, healthy.
A good oral health routine is crucial at all stages of our life. If we practice good oral hygiene and visit our dentist regularly, there’s no reason why our teeth shouldn’t last a lifetime. Tooth and gum problems are not an inevitable consequence of aging. Our dentist can help us to maintain a comfortable and healthy mouth so that we can enjoy life to the full.
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