Time marches on and as your body ages, so do your teeth. The effects of aging teeth can impact your whole body. Understanding the importance of proper oral care can help avoid tooth loss and other related health problems that can affect your body as you age.
Tooth Enamel: Your Teeth’s Natural Shield
Teeth are naturally protected by enamel, which helps keep them strong and keeps bacteria away. Bacteria build-up leads to tooth decay, gum disease and other health problems such as infection.
Over time, abrasion and decay contribute to the loss of tooth enamel. This is a normal part of the aging process. However, loss of enamel is permanent; there is currently no means by which tooth enamel can be restored.
Your teeth become vulnerable to cavities and decay as tooth enamel wears away. Caring properly for your teeth and practicing good oral care overall can slow the process and keep enamel from wearing down so quickly.
Wear & Tear
Teeth are very strong – stronger than bone – but they’re not indestructible. Any time your teeth grind together it wears away at the enamel on the surface. A lifetime of chewing, biting and grinding (for those with bruxism) will lead to flattening.
Flat, or worn, teeth open more surfaces to bacteria and wear away natural enamel. Weakened or worn enamel can lead to cracked or chipped teeth as well as increased risk for cavities and decay. With this in mind, you’ll understand why it’s very important to keep good dental health routines in your golden years to protect teeth: brush and floss daily, eat healthy foods, and visit your dentist at least twice a year.
Staining is Practically Inevitable
Certain foods and drinks stain teeth. Over time, staining becomes darker and more noticeable. Although staining is nearly impossible to avoid, it is primarily a cosmetic issue. There are plentiful options for whitening, but they become less effective on aging teeth. In-office whitening with your dentist is the best option if you want to combat staining.
Be Wary of Dry Mouth
As we age, we often start taking more medications. Dry mouth, or xerostomia, is a side-effect of many medications. Dry mouth exacerbates conditions that are ideal for bacteria; bacteria thrive and multiply exponentially in a dry mouth. The combination of dry mouth and bacteria build-up increases your chances of developing gingivitis and tooth decay. It also leaves you more susceptible to mouth infections such as thrush. Plus, you are more likely to experience bad breath (halitosis). Saliva is the body’s natural way to keep teeth and gums healthy and wash away excess bacteria. It is your body’s defense against dry mouth. Keeping the mouth hydrated is paramount to avoiding these issues.
Aging Teeth & Total Body Health
Evidence continues to grow in the connection between gum/mouth health and the rest of the body. Gingivitis, the earliest stage of gum disease, can lead to much more serious periodontal disease if left untreated. Periodontal disease has been linked to other health issues such as heart disease, stroke and certain cancers.
Research continues to discover links between gum inflammation and diseases like diabetes. Blood sugar levels can be hard to control for those with diabetes who also suffer from gum disease. In fact, severe periodontal disease can actually raise blood sugar levels.
So, as time marches on, it is more important than ever to have good oral health as you age, avoid common dental mistakes, and keep your teeth and gums healthy for your lifetime. Your smile will thank you and the rest of your body will too!
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