Four Things You Can Do to Keep Your Teeth for a Lifetime
Although good oral health habits should be a part of your young developmental years, consider the age of 40 the foundation of your overall health patterns for the years to come. We all know that as we age, we are susceptible to changes in the overall functioning of our immune system, our bone health and heart health. These facts make it vitally important to be diligent in the care of our teeth and gums.
Developing a simple daily routine of brushing, flossing and eating a balanced diet with plenty of fruits and vegetables is important regardless of age.
Here are four things you can do to retain your teeth as you get older:
Defend Against Tooth Decay
Although decay may occur in any area of the tooth, as you age decay is more likely to develop around old fillings or in the softer root of the tooth that is exposed as gums recede.
Brushing your teeth regularly is important in all stages of life. Brushing helps to remove the thin film of bacteria that builds up on your teeth each day and contributes to tooth decay. You should brush your teeth for two to three minutes with fluoridated toothpaste at least twice a day. If you can brush your teeth after every meal, that’s even better. Finish by brushing your tongue, which helps remove bacteria from your mouth.
Guard Against Gum Disease
Did you know that gum disease and not the aging process is the leading cause of tooth loss in adults? In addition, recent research has shown that the health of your gums may have a connection to some chronic diseases. Having periodontal (gum) disease has been linked to and may be a risk factor in developing Alzheimer’s disease, heart disease or diabetes. Experts are studying how inflammation in the mouth caused by gum disease may influence other areas of the body (brain, heart and pancreas), causing disease in those areas. Most adults show some signs of gum disease.
Flossing your teeth can help keep your gums strong and prevent plaque from building up between teeth. Make sure to floss at least once a day, preferably before bed, to clean the places where a toothbrush can’t reach.
How important is flossing? According to the Academy of General Dentistry, flossing is the only activity that can remove plaque from between teeth and below the gumline, where decay and gum disease often begin.
Go Nuts About Nutrition
What you eat can help you keep your teeth. Antioxidants and other nutrients found in fruits, vegetables, legumes and nuts improve your body’s ability to fight bacteria and inflammation, helping to protect your teeth and gums.
Some foods may actually help defend against tooth decay in special ways. For instance, recent studies have indicated that fresh cranberries interrupt the bonding of oral bacteria before they can form damaging plaque. Other foods that have beneficial effects on oral health include:
Calcium-fortified juices, milk and other dairy products, which are rich in calcium and vitamin D, help promote healthy teeth and bones, and reduce the risk for tooth loss.
Cheese, which unleashes a burst of calcium that mixes with plaque and sticks to the teeth, protecting them from the acid that causes decay and helping to rebuild tooth enamel on the spot.
Crisp fruits and raw vegetables like apples, carrots and celery, which help clean plaque from teeth and freshen breath.
Check in to Getting Regular Check-ups
According to the American Dental Association, people over 40 have three or more decayed or missing teeth as a result of untreated oral health problems.
Also, as you age you become more vulnerable to developing chronic diseases. Researchers believe that symptoms of these diseases can manifest themselves in the mouth, making dentists key in diagnosing the diseases. In fact, your dentist may be the first health professional to notice a problem.
In addition, it is important to visit your dentist regularly because some oral problems, for instance root decay, can only be detected in its early stages by x-ray examination.
Oral Cancer can grow in any part of the mouth or throat. It is more likely to happen in people over age 40. A dental checkup is a good time for your dentist to look for signs of oral cancer. Pain is not usually an early symptom of the disease. Treatment works best before the disease spreads. Even if you have lost all your natural teeth, you should still see your dentist for regular oral cancer exams.
You can lower your risk of getting oral cancer in a few ways:
Do not use tobacco productscigarettes, chewing tobacco, snuff, pipes, or cigars.
If you drink alcohol, do so only in moderation.
Use lip balm with sunscreen.
Your dentist can diagnose and treat dental health problems before they become serious. Regular dental check-ups and cleanings are an important part of maintaining good dental and overall health as you age.
Sources: Worldental.org, National Institute on Aging, Delta Dental