Keeping Your Smile Healthy After 50Wednesday, February 18th, 2015, 9:09 pm
There is news to smile about for people past 50 – more and more are keeping their smiles! A few generations ago it was expected that teeth would be lost as we got older – today this is no longer true. People are keeping their teeth longer than before and the number of teeth that older American’s retain has increased. Keeping our teeth longer does mean that there are some problems to be aware of as we age.
We usually think of kids getting cavities but tooth decay can happen at any age – even over 50! Some patients who have never had a problem with cavities find they start getting them on the surface of their teeth, more commonly decay forms around old fillings or at the root of the tooth. Old dental fillings need to be checked regularly and replaced if they show signs of damage or leakage. Fluoride treatments, including brushing with fluoride toothpaste or using a fluoride rinse, help protect teeth against decay. Ask your dentist if over-the-counter products will work for you or if you should step up to a prescription strength product.
Dry mouth is caused by medications, smoking, or some medical conditions. Dry mouth is uncomfortable, but more importantly, saliva plays a huge role in keeping our mouths healthy. Saliva protects our teeth from decay by washing away food debris and helping to remineralize tooth enamel that has been softened after exposure to acids in food and drink. Chewing sugarless gum helps stimulate saliva in some people or you may find that a saliva substitute works best for you.
Bleeding gums are never normal. Gums that are swollen, red or bleed easily tell us that you have gingivitis, an early form of gum disease. Left untreated, gum disease will only progress leading to eventual tooth loss and even affect the bone in your jaw. Gum disease and the inflammation that goes along with it has also been linked to a number of serious health problems including cardiovascular disease. Keeping your gums healthy by brushing, flossing and visiting the dental hygienist regularly can help maintain your overall health – which saves healthcare dollars in the long run!
Over 40,000 people in this country will be diagnosed with oral cancers and more than 8,000 will die from the disease. Oral cancers are linked to smoking, heavy alcohol use and HPV (the human papilloma virus). Surviving oral cancer means early detection is necessary. Your dental examination includes an oral cancer screening – don’t skip this important step.
Our teeth move as we get older. Typically the bottom teeth become crowded and you may find that food “sticks” in new places in your mouth. Crowded teeth are more than a cosmetic worry. Teeth that are crowded are more difficult to keep clean and this may lead to erosion of the gums or gum disease. More and more older adults are deciding to straighten those crooked teeth – talk to your dentist about your options for creating a straight, beautiful smile without the “brace-face” you remember from childhood.
Please contact our full service dental office, Wilbanks Smile Center, in Toccoa, GA today at 706-886-8777. We’ll be happy to work together to help you get (and keep) a healthy, beautiful smile for life!