It is no surprise that the teeth and mouth, like most if not all other body parts and systems, change in substantial ways with age. This is why medical experts recommend more and more frequent visits to all kinds of doctors as we get older, as well as push for adjustments to lifestyle habits in order to combat, slow, or minimize the effects of aging.
For the teeth specifically, it is a well-known fact that tooth enamel (the outer layer of the tooth responsible for protecting the tooth itself) tends to wear away as we age. This in turn makes the teeth extra vulnerable to things like cavities, tooth decay, and even tooth loss. Further, saliva production tends to decrease with age, which also makes the teeth more susceptible to the above.
Moreover, tooth loss caused by tooth decay or unhealthy gums also makes it that much harder for older individuals to consume the nutrient-rich foods they need to keep their teeth and gums strong and healthy, as they may struggle to chew certain foods. This can make it increasingly difficult to maintain overall dental health as we age.
As many of us know, dental health is nothing to trivialize, especially not for seniors. To underscore its importance, below we have outlined the top six most effective tips, according to the dental experts at Fab Dental, regarding dental health that all seniors, or soon-to-be seniors, should understand and practice as they age.
1. Brush and Floss Daily
Brushing your teeth twice a day and flossing nightly is generally recommended by dentists and other doctors for all people, regardless of age group. However, as we age, it becomes increasingly important to stick to this regimen as our teeth lose enamel and become more susceptible to cavities and decay.
Further, an astounding 64 percent of elderly adults have periodontal disease (also known as gum disease), which is caused by the build-up of plaque on the teeth due to poor dental hygiene practices. Gum disease, tooth decay, and cavities caused by poor oral hygiene can then all lead to tooth loss, which is why brushing and flossing every day as recommended by a dentist is so important, especially for seniors.
2. Avoid High-Sugar Foods
Sugar is the leading cause of cavities, so it is wise to reduce your sugar intake as much as possible as you age, as your teeth will become more prone to cavities. This is due to the reasons already explained above— namely that the teeth will lose enamel over time. Most of the time, people think only of what they consume as food— but drinks matter too. In fact, most juices and sodas will contain high amounts of sugar per serving, so make sure you pay attention to drinks as well.
3. Add Calcium-Rich Foods
Alternatively, adding foods that are high in calcium could be very beneficial to your tooth health as you age. Calcium is a nutrient that supports bone health and strength. Individuals with calcium deficiencies will often experience bone density issues as they age, making them more susceptible to bone injuries. The teeth are bones, which means calcium deficiency can negatively impact them as well, making weakness, decay, and tooth loss more likely with age. To avoid tooth loss and decay due to calcium deficiency, add more calcium-rich foods to your diet. Some foods to consider are yogurts, milk, and other dairy products, as well as poppy and chia seeds, salmon, beans and lentils, and more.
4. Avoid Smoking
Smoking isn’t just bad for your teeth because it causes yellowing and discoloration— it also can make it significantly harder to fight off infections within the mouth. Smokers have a greater risk of gum disease, oral cancer, and tooth decay. And, because smoking can reduce saliva production in the mouth, which is very important for protecting all parts of the mouth from harmful bacteria and disease, it can also lead to more frequent cavities.
5. See the Dentist Regularly
While maintaining healthy teeth and gums is mostly up to you and your daily habits, seeing a dentist regularly to stay on top of any issues is also a must. Sometimes, despite our best efforts, we still end up having to deal with cavities or other tooth issues. By going to see your dentist regularly, you can ensure that any issues that arise can be dealt with promptly before the consequences become more severe. Your dentist can also help you adjust any current habits you have that may be affecting your oral health, and may even recommend special toothpaste or oral products to use to help you address any specific struggles, and prevent more issues down the road.
6. Pay Attention
Lastly, pay attention! If you notice any pain or discomfort in your teeth or gums, address it. Do not ignore any early signs of cavities or gum disease. Sharp or dull tooth pain and tenderness, excessive bleeding of the gums after brushing or flossing, discolored gums, tooth wobbling, and extra sensitivity to hot or cold foods and drinks, can all be signs that something is not right. Pain is your body’s way of telling you that something isn’t working, so it's important that you always pay attention and have your dentist address any pain or discomfort you are experiencing with your teeth or gums.