Our bodies show their age in many ways. Hair gets grayer, we get fine lines and crow’s feet, and aches and pains seemingly appear overnight. There’s another way that our bodies change as we get older that most of us don’t spend much time thinking about: our teeth and gums age too. Gums start to recede, our enamel gets thinner, and stains start to accumulate. Wear and tear from decades of use starts to take a toll, as do certain health conditions and medications. It’s important to be aware of these changes and to be proactive when it comes to your dental health. Here are four ways to protect your teeth as you get older.
1. Stay Well-Hydrated
Dry mouth isn’t just uncomfortable; it’s also bad for your oral health. Throughout the day, saliva in our mouths dilutes and washes away the acid left behind from food, beverages, and the bacteria on our teeth. In a dry mouth, this acid isn’t washed away and it becomes more concentrated, leaving teeth vulnerable to cavities. Saliva also contains immune cells and minerals that work to protect our teeth.
Unfortunately, many of the medications we take to stay healthy as we get older also lead to dry mouth. Stopping these medications is rarely an option, so the best alternative is to drink plenty of water throughout the day. Carry a water bottle with you wherever you go and skip juices, soda, coffee, and tea. Instead of sucking on hard candies when you’re feeling parched, choose sugar-free lozenges or gum if water is not available. If you use a mouthwash as part of your oral hygiene routine, switch to one that is alcohol-free.
2. Protect Against Oral Cancer
When we get older, we’re at a higher risk of oral cancer. This is one of the reasons why it’s so important never to miss a dental checkup––during these appointments, we conduct oral exams to identify any abnormal tissues or sores that could be cancerous. Other steps to take to reduce your risk of oral cancer include drinking alcohol in moderation only, using alcohol-free mouthwash, and quitting smoking and chewing tobacco. When you go outside, always wear a lip balm with SPF.
3. Brush Better
Many patients think brushing well means brushing hard, with a stiff-bristled brush. When you brush like this, you’re doing more harm than good. While your teeth might feel clean, brushing too hard can make your gums recede.
Instead of brushing hard, brush better by using a soft-bristled brush (or an electric toothbrush) for two minutes, twice a day. Brush the fronts, backs, and chewing surfaces of all your teeth and floss at least once a day.
4. Make Regular Appointments With Your Dentist
An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure when it comes to your oral health. When you see us every six months, we can spot minor issues before they become serious problems. This is the best way to prevent tooth decay and gum disease, two of the most common conditions we see in older patients.
Make an Appointment Today
Do you have concerns about your teeth as you age? Contact Ascent Dental Care at 413-224-1493 to schedule an appointment.