3 reasons your dental care needs extra attention after 50

I’ve never been vain when it comes to my smile.

I’ve never been one of those gals with a dazzling set of pearly whites, and I understand that not everyone has naturally white teeth.

But as I move through my 60s, I’m running into some problems with my teeth and gums that have nothing to do with appearance, things I haven’t experienced before.

Since I’m planning on being around a while longer and also planning on enjoying the foods I love, I decided to look into things a little more deeply.

Which problems are unavoidable, and which are things I could be doing more to control and correct?

Here’s what I’ve found out.

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1. Your teeth are getting weaker…

Your teeth may be strong, but they’re not indestructible. When you’ve been chewing, biting and grinding all sorts of foods for decades, the enamel on the outside of your teeth will start to wear down. The biting edges of the teeth will also start to flatten, making chewing and biting harder work.

Acidic foods do damage to tooth surfaces. Citrus fruits and carbonated beverages are among the foods that wear down your enamel. A crack in the enamel can set the stage for painful infection or abscesses within the pulp of the tooth.

Believe it or not, your teeth become less sensitive with age, so it could be some time before you even notice an infection caused by a crack. By that time, root canal surgery or extraction may be necessary.

2. Your gums are receding …

Children aren’t the only ones who get cavities. In older adults, though, they tend to occur right at the gum line. That’s because, as you age, your gum tissue naturally recedes, exposing the soft root of the tooth. Bacteria settles here, causing bleeding gums, loose teeth and even teeth that fall out.

Women in menopause can experience desquamative gingivitis, a condition where the outer layers of the gum bleed easily and separate from the underlying tissue. This exposes nerve endings, making for extremely painful and inflamed gums.

3. And your mouth is getting drier

Your salivary glands don’t work as well as you get older. Medications can also cause dry mouth. These include some antidepressants, decongestants, muscle relaxants, and diuretics.

A dry mouth is more than uncomfortable. Saliva helps keep your teeth clean and protect them from decay. As you get older, you produce less saliva, and certain medications also cause a dry mouth.

Saliva also bathes your gums and tongue, keeping them healthy. As your mouth dries out, you can become more prone to gingivitis and other bacterial conditions.

How to keep your mouth young

Visit your dentist regularly. Don’t think that twice-yearly check-ups are just for kids.

Research shows that there is an intimate connection between gum disease and diabetes, kidney disease, arthritis, and even cancer.

Also, most people diagnosed with oral cancer are 55 or older, and the CDC reports that rates of oral cancer peak around age 60.

So, don’t avoid your dentist!

Here are some other proactive steps you can take to keep your mouth healthy as you get older.

  • Mouthwashes with alcohol can make your mouth even drier. So can caffeine.
  • Don’t swish fizzy drinks around in your mouth. If you can’t give them up, follow them up with milk or cheese to “cancel out” the acid.
  • If you like sugary or starchy snacks or foods, eat them with your main meals (not as snacks). That’s when your mouth makes the most saliva to help wash acid away.
  • Foods with calcium and vitamin D guard against the bone loss which can lead to tooth loss.
  • Brush twice a day with a soft toothbrush that will not be harsh on sensitive gums.
  • Clean dentures daily. Take them out of your mouth for at least four hours a day, and at night.
  • Quit smoking. It causes cancer, including oral cancer.
  • Know the signs of oral cancer:
    • a white or reddish patch inside your mouth
    • a lip or mouth sore that doesn’t heal
    • loose teeth
    • a growth or lump inside your mouth
    • mouth pain
    • ear pain
    • difficult or painful swallowing

Editor’s note: While you’re doing all the right things to protect your brain as you age, make sure you don’t make the mistake 38 million Americans do every day — by taking a drug that robs them of an essential brain nutrient! Click here to discover the truth about the Cholesterol Super-Brain!

Sources:

  1. How Teeth Change With Age — WebMD
  2. 7 Things You Need To Know About Your Teeth As You Age — Prevention
  3. Oral Cancer Incidence (New Cases) by Age, Race, and Gender — National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research
  4. Oral issues you need to be aware of as you get older — 123dentist.com

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Joyce Hollman

By Joyce Hollman

Joyce Hollman is a writer based in Kennebunk, Maine, specializing in the medical/healthcare and natural/alternative health space. Health challenges of her own led Joyce on a journey to discover ways to feel better through organic living, utilizing natural health strategies. Now, practicing yoga and meditation, and working towards living in a chemical-free home, her experiences make her the perfect conduit to help others live and feel better naturally.