How to take care of your oral health as you age
Oral health is vitally important, not only to the function and appearance of your mouth and smile, but also for your overall wellbeing. Many people simply do not realise that dental problems and oral disease have been linked to a variety of health conditions, many chronic and serious, including diabetes, heart disease, Alzheimer’s and even some cancers. There can also be serious psychological repercussions too, with many patients finding that dental problems impact on their confidence, their personal and professional relationships and the way that others perceive them and their level of oral hygiene.
As many as 90% of people may experience some level of oral disease in their lifetime, and so taking steps to keep your mouth as healthy as possible should be as much of a daily priority as keeping hydrated and eating well.
So, how can you take care of your oral health as you age? Let’s find out.
Control your risk factors
Some people are genetically pre-disposed to oral health problems. There is also no getting away from the fact that we only get one set of adult teeth which must last us from mid-childhood until we die, meaning that the older we are the more likely we are to have trouble with our teeth and gums. These risk factors are unfortunately non-modifiable. However, there are some risk factors that we can control.
You probably already know that there are certain behaviors and habits that can increase your risk of developing problems with your oral health. However, what you might be surprised to learn is that it not just high sugar consumption and poor dental hygiene to blame. In fact, it is smoking, excessive alcohol consumption and a poor diet, in conjunction with a low standard of dental hygiene, which are the biggest contributors to poor oral health.
Making changes to these bad habits can help to control your risk of developing problems with your oral wellbeing as you age, and quitting smoking – proven to be one of the worst offenders for causing chronic health conditions and cancer - could save your life.
Maintain a great oral hygiene routine
We may have brushing our teeth twice a day drummed into us from an early age, but keeping up with your oral hygiene routine is important no matter how old you are and no matter how much your teeth change. As people get older, they invariably have dental work done to their teeth – cavity fillings, crowns, dental implants, bridgework and even full sets of dentures. It is crucial to remember that no matter what prosthetic devices you have in your mouth or how many of your teeth are natural, maintaining a great oral hygiene routine is still necessary to prevent dental problems occurring. This is particularly true for things like gum disease, which can occur even in a mouth full of dental implants.
Brush your teeth at least twice a day using a fluoride toothpaste, and floss and use mouthwash daily to keep your mouth fresh and healthy. If you have removable devices such as dentures, ensure you follow your dentist’s instructions to keep them clean and healthy too.
It may seem obvious, but staying hydrated is particularly helpful for the oral health of the older generation. This is because as we get older, our saliva glands begin to not work as well as they once did, leading to a problem known as dry mouth. Saliva is the mouth’s natural defence against the plaque acids that are largely responsible for tooth decay. It also helps us to chew and swallow our food comfortably. By staying hydrated you can help to improve the levels of saliva in your mouth. Chewing gum also encourages the body to produce saliva, so a stick of sugar-free gum after meals is recommended to anyone of any age to help support their oral health.
Visit your dentist regularly
Many people avoid visiting their dentist unless they experience toothache or have other concerns about the dental health. However, your dentist is the best person to be able to spot potential dental problems before they start to cause you symptoms, meaning that you can get treatment sooner and before something relatively minor and inexpensive becomes a complex, potentially painful and expensive problem.
Take steps to take care of your oral health today and with the right care and attention, your teeth could last you a lifetime.