As we age, lifestyle choices we made in the past can play an important role in our overall health and quality of life.
If our diets were not the healthiest or we avoided dental care, medical and dental problems can make later years challenging.
The good news is it is never too late to replace bad habits with good ones and correcting previous choices can make a difference.
Poor dental health can result in serious problems in later years. Untreated dental problems can result in the loss of teeth, gum disease and other unpleasant consequences.
Untreated dental problems can make it difficult to chew, swallow or enjoy your favorite foods. In addition, researchers have linked oral health problems such as gum disease (periodontal disease) to other health problems including heart disease, complications of diabetes and other serious health problems.
Regardless of your age, good dental hygiene is just as important now as it was when you were a child:
Brush twice a day with a fluoride toothpaste (ask your dentist for a recommendation)
Floss your teeth at least once a day
Avoid sugary foods, such as sodas and eat a balanced diet
Quit all tobacco use
See your dental professionals (your dentist will recommend a schedule to fit your particular dental problems)
Some dental problems are more common with age and need your special attention.
Dentures and Implants
If you have lost a significant number of teeth, your dentist can suggest complete or partial dentures. Dentures allow you to chew and enjoy your food, although it can take some time to adjust to them.
Complete dentures typically replace all of your natural teeth. Getting the right fit is important to successfully wearing full dentures. Be careful when adjusting to dentures since it can be difficult to detect objects such as bones in your food along with very hot or cold foods or liquids.
Dentures require daily cleaning and maintenance just like natural teeth. Your dentist can recommend products and a schedule for keeping your dentures clean.
Partial dentures replace one of more missing teeth. In some cases, partial dentures are permanently secured in your mouth, unlike full dentures. Your dentist can advise you on care and cleaning.
Dental implants can be a better solution if you are missing teeth. Dental implants secure a tooth to your jaw that matches in size and color the surrounding teeth. Ask your dentist if you are a good candidate for dental implants.
Oral cancer typically appears later in life. There is usually no pain with the early stages of oral cancer, so detection often depends on your dentist spotting the disease during a regular checkup, which is another good reason for maintaining a schedule of appointments.
Like most cancers, it is easier to treat successfully when caught in the early stages before spreading.
You can reduce the risk of oral cancer by:
Quitting all tobacco use in any form
Drinking alcohol in moderation if at all
Protect your lips with a lip balm containing sunscreen
Dry mouth is a condition that results from producing too little saliva in the mouth. Saliva helps with chewing, swallowing, tasting and speaking. A dry mouth is uncomfortable and potentially aids tooth decay or infections.
Certain medications can cause dry mouth. Your doctor and dentist can help you deal with this irritating problem. Some suggestions include:
Avoid tobacco and alcohol use
Avoid caffeinated drinks
Some coping strategies include:
Sugar-free chewing gum
Sugar-free hard candy
There is no age limit on good dental hygiene. Take care of your teeth and you will enjoy a higher quality of life while avoiding some of the many complications poor dental health habits cause.