As we get older, we have an ever-growing list of things to worry about. If your teeth aren’t already on that list, they should be. Just like the rest of your body, your teeth change as you age. Enamel gets thinner, while stains accumulate. The wear and tear that comes with decades of use begins to take a toll, as do certain medications and health conditions. While this doesn’t mean you’re condemned to poor oral health in your golden years, it does mean you need to be more diligent about taking care of your teeth and gums. Here are four steps to help you do just that.
1. Go Easy on the Brushing
Many patients feel that their teeth are cleanest when they use stiff bristles and lots of pressure while they brush to scrub their teeth clean. Your teeth might feel clean, but brushing this way isn’t good for you. As we age, our gums begin to recede naturally and brushing hard can hasten this process.
Going easy on the brushing doesn’t mean not brushing well. It means switching to a soft-bristled brush and using gentle pressure. Brush for two minutes, twice a day, making sure to brush the front, back, and chewing surfaces of all of your teeth. Even better, treat yourself to an electric toothbrush, which does a fantastic job of keeping your teeth clean and even has a timer to help you make sure you get that full two minutes in.
2. Prevent Dry Mouth
Staying hydrated is good for your overall health and it’s also good for your teeth. When your mouth is dry, it can wreak havoc on your teeth and gums. Saliva works to dilute and wash away acid from food, drinks, and bacteria throughout the day. Without sufficient saliva, this acid is more concentrated, leaving teeth prone to decay. Saliva also contains minerals and immune cells that protect our teeth. As we age, many of the medications we take to stay healthy can cause dry mouth.
The easiest way to prevent dry mouth is to drink lots of water throughout the day––not juice, coffee, tea, or soda. Carry a bottle of water with you when you’re out and about. Don’t suck on hard candies to keep your mouth from feeling dry; sugar-free lozenges or gum are a better choice when water is not available. An alcohol-free mouth rinse designed specifically for dry mouth can help too.
3. Take Steps to Protect Against Oral Cancer
As we age, our risk of oral cancer increases. Your dentist will conduct an oral exam for cancerous sores and abnormal tissue during your biannual dental check-up, but there are other steps you can take to prevent oral cancer. If you drink alcohol, do so in moderation. Use an alcohol-free mouthwash. Stop smoking and don’t use chewing tobacco. Always wear a lip balm with SPF, particularly when you plan on being outdoors for an extended amount of time.
4. See Your Dentist Regularly
Gum disease is more prevalent in older adults; aside from having good oral hygiene habits, seeing your dentist regularly is one of the best ways to keep your gums healthy. Once periodontitis sets in, it can quickly lead to bad breath, pain, bleeding, and even tooth loss. When you visit your dentist every six months, we can catch minor issues before they become something more serious.
Make an Appointment Today
If you have concerns about your teeth as you age, contact us at 203-227-2520 to schedule an appointment with Dr. Marilyn Geni.