In the past, getting older meant saying goodbye to your teeth—but that’s not necessarily true anymore. With daily care and an informed hygiene routine, even aged teeth can serve you for a lifetime. See your dentist for routine dental exams to preserve your teeth and for advice on restorative dentistry for any pre-existing damage so your smile will remain strong and bright for years to come.
What Is the Truth About Aging Teeth?
The most common cause of tooth loss in elderly patients is decay. In aging teeth, the nerve that transmits pain and sensitivity from our teeth and jaw becomes smaller and the signals telling us where there may be an infection or cavity aren’t as strong. As a result, aging teeth and gums are prone to disease that can cause tooth loss—among other potentially more serious problems.
This is why regular dental exams and cleanings are important so that cavities and other dental issues can be addressed early on before they become too serious. Decayed teeth can be salvaged with a dental crown or implant, but if left untreated, cavities can lead to a root canal or other which can be very costly and jeopardize the condition of the tooth structure.
How Do You Know Your Teeth Are Aging?
Aging patients are also prone to teeth grinding, which can damage your jaw and can cause flattened, cracked, or chipped teeth over time. People who grind their teeth can also have increased tooth sensitivity, compromised tooth structure, and thinner enamel than others—all of which can lead to early tooth loss.
Gums also recede over time without proper care and hygiene. Receding gums can lead to swelling, bleeding, and bad breath—among other more serious conditions like tooth loss. Receding gums can eventually progress so far as to expose the root of the tooth to infection which can sometimes spread to the jaw and other structures around the face and body.
Preventative care, and oversight from a professional dentist, are the best ways to maintain the health of your teeth and gums as you age. With the combination of the right daily hygiene routine and preventative cleanings and examinations, patients can keep their natural teeth well into old age. Here are some tips for preventing tooth decay and keeping a healthy smile for life:
Practice Good Dental Hygiene Habits
Elderly patients may find it more difficult to brush at least twice a day and floss every day, as is recommended. Products like electric toothbrushes, Waterpiks, and floss picks can make the motion of cleaning your teeth easier, and fluoride mouthwashes can protect and harden the enamel of your teeth as you use them.
Protect Enamel Health
The outside of your teeth are composed of a hard material called enamel, which is integral to the health of your teeth. Your enamel can be worn away over time, and only a dentist can restore it, but taking measures to protect your enamel will ensure the health of your teeth over time. Avoiding acidic foods, wearing a mouthguard to prevent grinding, and regular brushing will all help to protect your enamel.
Maintain Gum Health
The gums are essentially the muscles that hold our teeth in place. Healthy gums are crucial to overall oral health—and there are even studies to suggest that gum disease increases the risk of serious disease in other parts of the body. Aging teeth and gums especially need to be maintained by brushing and flossing to remove bacteria that cause gingivitis and periodontitis. (An infection of the tissues surrounding and even including the jawbone.) An antiseptic mouthwash is also a good preventative measure for protecting aging teeth and gums.
Dry mouth can be a surprisingly common source of infection and decay in the teeth of older patients. Saliva is the body’s natural mouth rinse, washing bacteria off the teeth gums, but certain medications can decrease saliva production. Drinking water hydrates your body and makes it easier for your salivary glands to function. Drinking water will lead to healthier teeth and gums, proper salivary function, and prevent bad breath.
No one likes the thought of losing teeth or compromising the health of their mouth as they get older, but the truth is, that doesn’t have to happen! At Champagne Family Dentistry Sparks NV, our goal is to help our patients keep their own natural teeth for their entire lives. From routine cleanings and checkups to major restorative dentistry, we’re here to give our aging patients a reason to smile wide!