Oral Health for Seniors: How to Maintain Healthy Teeth and Gums as You Age

Ageing is inevitable and affects the entire body, including your teeth. Only a century ago, it was a given that you would lose all of your natural teeth with age and would require dentures. Nowadays, thanks to improved oral care, many people over age sixty-five will have at least some, if not all, of their natural teeth. But unfortunately, tooth loss is still very common and can occur due to oral diseases such as tooth decay and gum disease, be caused by some form of trauma or, more rarely, other problems like oral cancer. While these problems are concerning, there is some good news as there is a lot you can do to maintain and protect your oral health so your mouth and your smile look younger than your real age.

Wear and Tear on Teeth

Your teeth are incredibly strong and are designed to withstand significant pressure when you bite and chew food. However, a lifetime of munching can eventually wear down tooth enamel, and biting edges of front teeth and the chewing surfaces of back teeth become worn and flattened. As tooth enamel wears down, it can increase tooth sensitivity as the tooth nerve is closer to the outer surface and more prone to becoming irritated or inflamed. Any cracks in teeth can allow bacteria to enter the tooth, so there is an increased risk of infection and requiring root canal treatment to save the tooth. The risk of needing root canal therapy over age sixty-five triples compared to younger people.

Then there is the ever-present risk of tooth decay, which is not just a problem for the young. More people over age sixty-five now have cavities compared with school children. The problem can arise due to gum recession, where gums pull away from teeth exposing the tooth roots, which are more vulnerable to decay. Gum recession typically does not affect younger people. Additionally, many younger people are now benefitting from growing up in an age when dental sealants and fluoride treatments are commonly used to protect and preserve teeth. Older people may not have had access to these treatments growing up. Older people are also more likely to have fillings that can break down as they age, letting in harmful bacteria and causing further problems with infection and decay.

Helping You Care for Your Teeth as You Age

It might not be possible to prevent natural wear and tear on teeth, but good oral care can help prevent cavities and other dental problems. Regular brushing and flossing, combined with professional preventive dentistry, can help considerably. If you are older, ensure you visit us regularly for checkups and cleans, and we can monitor your oral health during these visits and provide a custom preventive dental care plan. Your plan will show how often you should visit us and if we recommend any additional preventive treatments like fluoride treatment. We can also provide useful advice on caring for your teeth as you age. For example, some people find their dexterity declines with age, so switching to an electric toothbrush might help. Regular oral cancer screenings ensure any symptoms of this disease are detected more quickly, which could save your life, not just your smile.