As you start to age, it becomes even more important to take care of your teeth and gums. It is common for people to experience oral health problems they hadn’t even thought of before. By taking preventative measures, you can avoid expensive bills and unnecessary pain.
At Crescent Heights Dental, we know that it’s difficult for some to manage these new dental health responsibilities. Here, let’s break down the importance of taking care of your oral health, especially as you age. We’ve got some tips for you to try at home!
Why You Should Pay Attention to Your Oral Care
The older we get, the more wear and tear our teeth experience. Teeth are very strong and resilient, but they still encounter deterioration from everyday life. Some reasons your teeth (and oral health) decline over time include:
- Gnawing, crunching, and grinding. This can include anything from grinding in your sleep to excessive chewing. Over a lifetime, these activities flatten the edges of your teeth and wear away the enamel’s outer layer.
- Acidic foods. Carbonated beverages and citrus fruits are known for dissolving your protective enamel. This can lead to serious dental problems such as cavities, cracks, and infections.
- Lack of fluoride. Fluoride didn’t use to be as common as it is today. If you didn’t have access to fluoride when you were younger, your fillings might be more susceptible to breaking down.
- Tobacco use. Regular tobacco use can lead to severe issues such as oral cancer.
Children who eat a lot of sugar aren’t the only ones susceptible to cavities. People over the age of 65 are actually more susceptible to cavities than young children.
There’s not much you can do to slow down the natural weakening of your enamel. However, regular brushing and flossing should help. You can also take advantage of fluoride to slow the process. Fluoride is found in toothpastes, mouthwashes, and most tap water sources.
You can also get gels, rinses, and varnishes from your dentist. In some cases, fluoride even has the ability to reverse root decay damage.
It is common to experience more health problems as you age. This can lead to you taking multiple medications which can impact your oral health.
Many medications, for instance, list xerostomia (also known as dry mouth) as a side effect. In addition to being uncomfortable, lack of saliva results in:
- Bad breath
- Difficulty swallowing and eating
- Irritated and infected oral tissue
- Increases risk for tooth decay, cavities, and gum disease
To moisten a dry mouth:
- Suck on sugarless candies
- Chew sugarless gum
- Drink more water (try letting each gulp sit in your mouth for a couple of seconds before swallowing)
- Drink caffeinated beverages and alcohol in moderation
- Avoid tobacco products
- Try over-the-counter products to increase saliva production
Being especially conscientious about flossing and brushing can reduce your risk of tooth decay.
Reduced Nerve Sensitivity
As you start to age, dental procedures may become less painful because of reduced nerve sensitivity. However, this also means that it will get harder to detect issues early on. When it comes to oral health, early identification is crucial.
Reduced nerve sensitivity makes it difficult for you to notice pain. A problem, therefore, might get progressively worse before you can notice it.
This is why regular checkups are so important. An appointment every six months means your dentist can detect problems gone unnoticed by you. By recognizing issues early on, they can fix them before it is too late.
Everyday Steps You Can Take
In addition to detecting problems early on, your dentist will provide the necessary deep cleanings.
When it comes to your own routine, you should be brushing twice daily. Using the proper technique is critical; use small, circular motions without applying too much pressure. Apply the right amount of toothpaste and be sure to cover all areas of your mouth.
Flossing is also important and should be done once a day. Again, the proper technique is important. Get in between each tooth and avoid snapping the floss against your gums.
If you have questions about your oral hygiene routine, consult your dentist. They will be able to demonstrate the right technique and ensure you are taking care of your teeth correctly.
Affording Dental Care
Affording dental care becomes more difficult as you get older. You lose affordable insurance after retirement. You also have to worry about other medical bills. However, it is important you have access to regular dental visits.
Knowing what your insurance covers is crucial. Medicare, for instance, doesn’t include regular dental visits. You might be able to get benefits through a Medicare Advantage Plan. However, legislation may result in changes to services provided by the advantage plans.
You should also be prepared in the event you need a dental procedure or surgery performed. It is important that you can afford them, as putting off needed procedures will only make the problem worse. Medicare also does not cover most dental procedures.
Research of all your options when it comes to affording dental care. Senior citizens, for instance, can buy coverage through the AARP. You might also consider using credit plans provided by dentists.
Caring for an Elderly Loved One?
Your loved one might not be able to take care of their teeth as they once did. Help them with their oral hygiene routine if they are unable to do it themselves. They should have access to tools that make the process as easy as possible. Also, make sure your loved one is visiting a dentist regularly.
If properly taken care of, your teeth can last you a lifetime. Understanding the risks you are up against is crucial to stay ahead of potential damage. Continue to take good care of your teeth, visit your dentist, and ask questions. By keeping all of this in mind, you will have a healthy smile for many years to come.