As we age, our bodies tend to need special attention if they’re going to keep up with us. Maybe the first things to come to mind would be your knees, hips, and joints. While all of those are important, we want to focus on another crucial area: your mouth.
Studies have proven that your oral hygiene is important not only to your teeth but also to your overall life. Dental problems and gum issues could put you at increased risk for diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and Alzheimer’s disease. However, with proper daily care and preventative measures, good oral hygiene is achievable at any age.
Common Periodontal Issues
Before we look at how to avoid dental and gum issues, let’s address a few of the common ones that dentists see. Did you know that over half of all people over the age of 55 have some form of periodontal disease? And almost one out of four people over the age of 65 have lost all of their teeth.
Both of these outcomes are completely avoidable by maintaining healthy daily habits and regularly visiting the dentist. Let’s look at what you can do to make sure you avoid becoming another statistic.
Daily Dental Care
We all know that the number one way to avoid major dental issues is to practice healthy daily dental habits. If you’ve avoided dental issues up to this point, keep on keeping on! It’s important that you maintain your routine as you age. If you’re not so lucky to have had good dental history, now is the time to start a new practice. Make sure you’re doing the following daily.
Brush Your Teeth
At minimum, you should be brushing your teeth daily. Get a soft brush and some dentist-recommended toothpaste and start brushing. Sing “Happy Birthday” twice and then rinse. Make sure you’re cleaning all sides of your teeth, and brush in circular motions to avoid irritating your gums.
Floss Between Your Teeth
Flossing is another healthy habit that should be completed daily. If you have dexterity issues, your dentist can help you find a solution such as a floss holder. Flossing will remove all of the food between your teeth that brushing alone will miss, so it’s a crucial step in your dental health.
Regular Dentist Visits
At least once each year, you should be visiting your favorite dentist. We know this causes anxiety for many people but there’s no reason for it. A good dentist will make sure you feel comfortable during your visit and put you at ease. They’ll also conduct a thorough exam to make sure your gums look healthy and there are no cavities or other issues.
During your check-up, be sure that you tell your dentist if you have concerns or have been experiencing any pain or bleeding. Also, let them know if you’ve changed any of your medications—we’ll cover this more below.
Telling your dentist about any issues you’ve been experiencing is just one part of your dental visit. You should also be keeping them informed of your overall medical history since some of it may affect your dental treatment and health.
Be sure to tell your dentist what medications you’re currently taking or may be allergic to. This can impact the treatment that they give you and some medications can even cause side effects such as soft tissue changes, gum overgrowth, and dry mouth.
Common medications that can cause these effects include antihistamines and high blood pressure medication. Since many older adults are on both of these types of medications, it’s important to keep an eye out for tooth decay, difficulty swallowing, and other signs of periodontal disease.
Another part of your medical history that dentists will need to be aware of is just for the ladies. Women, if you are menopausal or post-menopausal, your dentist will need to be watching for the following changes in your mouth:
- Dry mouth
- Painful gums
- Altered taste
- Bone density
Also, if you’re on any hormonal treatment, let your dentist know because these can also affect your treatment.
Even if you’ve followed all of the healthy habits above, it’s still likely that you’ll experience periodontal issues at some point in your life as you age. It’s common for teeth to loosen or decay to the point of needing dental implants.
If this happens to you, don’t fret: technology has vastly improved over the years and there are many options available to you. If you think you’re relegated to dentures, we’re glad to tell you that’s not the only option, by far.
A dental implant is a great long-term option to address the loss of a tooth due to periodontal disease or an injury. A dental implant is an artificial tooth root that’s inserted into the jaw to hold a replacement tooth or bridge in place. Many patients prefer them over dentures because they’re permanent, look natural, and are maintenance-free.
If you’re dealing with tooth loss and hate the idea of sticky glue and slipping dentures, talk to your dentist about dental implants. They’ll discuss the myriad of options for implants including the following:
All On Four Dental Implants
This is a full set of implants that will replace your upper or lower set of dentures. This solution may require the use of dental bone grafts and/or gum grafts.
Mini Dental Implants
This is a smaller version of implants that doesn’t require a bone graft. It’s a good option for patients with one or two teeth that need repair.
As we age, it’s important that we’re giving our bodies the attention that they need from head to toe. While every part of the body is important, we hope you’ll pay special attention to your periodontal health. If you’ve already gotten to the point of needing teeth replacement, remember that dentures are not your only option. You may be a great candidate for dental implants!