Our teeth are extremely strong and built to last all the decades of wear and tear that come with chewing and biting our foods. The hard, white substance that covers our teeth is called enamel. This durable material is responsible for protecting our teeth our entire lives. As we age, it is important to realize that our teeth are also aging. Everyone can take precautions in order to prevent some of the effects of aging on oral health.
1. Our mouths undergo many changes as we age. Naturally, we may begin to produce less saliva as we age and many side effects of various medications include dry mouth. Dry mouth can adversely affect the way food tastes and can also have a harmful effect on oral health. Normal saliva production inhibits the growth of cavity-causing bacteria on teeth. One way to combat this problem is to keep yourself hydrated by drinking water after meals or brushing teeth with a fluoride-containing toothpaste after every meal.
2. Another concern for many older people is gum disease because the risk for it increases with age. Gum disease results in gum inflammation and receding gums. As a result, parts of the root of the tooth remain exposed which can lead to infection and sensitivity. According to the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research, gum disease is more likely to occur in people over the age of 40 and is also more common among men than women. A way to significantly reduce the likelihood of developing gum disease, tooth loss, and even oral cancer is to avoid smoking or quit smoking if you have already started.
3. Many night teeth grinders and and clenchers avoid using a mouth guard while sleeping. However, studies have shown that teeth grinders can wear away up to a millimeter of the tooth every year if untreated. The signs of wear may not present right away or cause any issues. However, as the wear adds up, teeth grinding can be quite destructive. More specifically, grinding teeth leads to deteriorating bone structures which can lead to both gum recession and tooth loss later on in life. The best way to combat this problem is to start using night guards early on.
Another way to preserve dental work that has already been done (such as crowns or any other dental restoration work) is to schedule a dental check-up every 6 months. Having these check-ups ensures that there aren’t any hidden cavities forming under crowns or fixtures which can lead to serious infections if left undetected.
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