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    • 28 MAY 14
    • 0

    How Does Growing Older Impact Your Teeth?

    What You Can Do To Keep Your Smile Young as You Age

    Older-couple-smilingGiven all the chewing, crunching, biting, and gnashing they do, our teeth are surprisingly resilient. Still, everyday wear and tear and the natural aging process take a toll.

    Here’s what happens to teeth as we age — and what you can do to keep your teeth strong and sparkling for a lifetime.

    Preventing Acid Erosion

    By far the biggest threat to teeth is sugary and starchy food. These carbohydrates ferment, causing the bacteria in the mouth to produce acids. Those acids can quickly eat away at the enamel of teeth.  As a result, this creates tiny pits where tooth decay can form.

    What You Can Do:

    • Go easy on sugary foods, especially carbonated soft drinks and sports drinks.
    • Avoid frequent snacking, which causes acid levels in the mouth to remain high over an extended time.
    • If you get a craving for something sweet, chew sugarless gum. Chewing increases saliva production, which helps cleanse the mouth and neutralize acidity.
    • Brush your teeth at least twice a day for two minutes and floss daily. Daily dental hygiene reduces bacteria levels in your mouth.
    • See your dentist every six months for a regular checkup that includes removing plaque buildup.

    Preventing Mechanical Wear and Tear on Your Teeth

    Contrary to what many people assume, teeth do not become more brittle with age, according to the American Dental Association. Unfortunately, dentists see patients all the time who have cracked or chipped a tooth biting down hard on something like an olive that still has a pit or a kernel of unpopped popcorn. Teeth that have fillings or root canals are particularly vulnerable.

    Another problem that causes wear and tear is the habit of grinding or clenching teeth. Called bruxism, it is frequently caused by stress or anxiety. Over time, bruxism can wear down the biting surfaces of teeth, making them more susceptible to decay.

    What You Can Do:

    • Avoid chewing ice and other very hard foods.
    • Double-check to make sure that pitted foods have no pits before you bite down on them.
    • See your dentist regularly. He or she can spot cracked or broken fillings that may weaken teeth. Your dentist will also check for signs of bruxism. Your dentist may recommend a mouth guard that can be worn at night to prevent grinding.

    Preventing Stains on Your Teeth

    Older-person-smilingCertain foods — especially coffee, tea, and red wine — can stain teeth. Tobacco, both smoked and chewed, also discolors teeth. Because stains typically form where there is organic build-up, or plaque, on teeth,  it’s important to have them removed as part of a regular checkup.

    What You Can Do:

    • Avoid foods that stain teeth.
    • Brush regularly to remove plaque buildup, which will help your teeth resist stains.
    • Have your teeth cleaned professionally every six months. Your dentist or dental hygienist can remove plaque and tartar that a toothbrush can’t reach.

    Preventing Gum Problems

    By far the biggest threat to healthy teeth is gum disease. The risk of gum problems increases with age, especially as pockets form at the gum line where bacteria can grow. Left untreated, bacterial infections can cause inflammation that damages connective tissue and even bone, leading to tooth loss.

    What You Can Do:

    • Brush and floss regularly to remove bacteria.
    • For added protection, use an antibacterial mouthwash.
    • Go to your dentist for a regular checkup every six months. This is particularly important for detecting gum disease early.
    • Since gum disease is an inflammatory process, eating foods that suppress inflammation may help. Growing evidence suggests that a diet rich in omega-3 fatty acids can help dampen inflammation. Good sources of omega-3 fatty acids include fish, fish oil, and flaxseed.

    Preventing Dry Mouth as You Age

    Dry mouth can drastically increase the risk of decay and gum problems. A healthy flow of saliva helps clean teeth and neutralize acids that otherwise eat away at the tooth enamel. However, more than 800 different drugs cause dry mouth as a side effect, and many of these are medications people take as they get older, according to the American Dental Association.

    What You Can Do:

    • A drop-off in saliva levels can very quickly cause problems. So at the first sign of dry mouth, talk to your doctor.
    • A change in prescriptions may help alleviate the problem. If not, your doctor may recommend chewing sugar-free gum. Gum increases saliva flow.
    • Saliva-like oral mouthwashes are also available.

    SOURCE: WebMD

     

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