As the husband of an orthodontist, I uniquely understand the importance of seeing a dentist twice a year. People with dental anxiety typically are not too eager to visit the dentist. However, ignoring your oral health and avoiding dental care puts you at risk for dental problems in the future, says Considerable’s March 2020 article entitled “7 top dental problems for people over 50.” Let’s look at these common dental issues for seniors:
- Tooth decay. The protective, outer layer of tooth enamel wears down from years of chewing, eating acidic foods and drinking carbonated beverages. We’re more likely to have cavities as we age, and cracks expose the tissue to inflammation and irritation, letting bacteria in and causing decay near the root of the tooth.
- Tooth sensitivity. As we age, surfaces of our teeth may become sensitive to hot and cold temperatures, especially when decay has already set in, or if the roots of the teeth are exposed.
- Shifting teeth. Teeth shift as we get older, which causes overcrowding, making it more difficult to floss and causing food traps to form. These can become areas for tooth decay to spread.
- Dry mouth. The calcium and phosphate in saliva help protect our teeth from decay, but many seniors take prescriptions that may decrease saliva production. Side effects can include dry mouth, bad breath and a metallic taste. Cavities can form as fast as three months after symptoms of dry mouth start.
- Gingivitis. If your gums are red, puffy and bleed when you brush or floss, you may have gingivitis. If left unchecked, it can turn into something far worse. Research shows a connection between gum inflammation and other health conditions like respiratory issues, diabetes, stroke and heart disease.
- Periodontitis. This is a gum disease that causes infections in the gum, jawbone and the ligaments that support the teeth. When the gum pulls away from the tooth, deep pockets are created which create an open spot for bacteria-laden plaque to collect. If not addressed, there’s a higher risk for receding gums, wobbly teeth, deterioration of the jawbone and tooth loss.
- Oral cancer. There is a higher risk of oral cancer in those who are heavy drinkers or smokers. A regular dental examination should include the dentist’s examination of the soft tissue in the mouth, as well as the throat and jaw to detect any signs of oral cancer.
Early detection is the best defense against dental problems, so visit your dentist at least twice a year for regular cleanings and exams (and possibly more frequently as you age). Keep up with preventative dental care measures at home, like regular brushing, flossing and using fluoride, as needed. This will help you keep your beautiful smile for a long time.
Reference: Considerable (March 12, 2020) “7 top dental problems for people over 50”