Guest Contributors

Dental Aging: Prevention and Common Teeth Changes

Submitted by Guest Contributor:
Beth Rush, Managing Editor and Content Manager
Body+Mind

Your body goes through many changes as you age and dental aging is one of them. Some of these shifts are more visible than others. However, even those you don’t readily see can affect your health and longevity. This is especially important in the dementia community.

You may not pay as much attention to dental changes as you do an aching back or put as much energy into brushing as you do toning sagging muscle. However, caring for your oral health as you age is critical.

Dental Aging and Compounding Effects

Researchers have found associations between the bacteria responsible for gingivitis and dementia and heart disease — what enters through your gums can cause bigger problems than lost teeth.

Therefore, you should know what changes you can anticipate in your mouth as you enter your sunset years. Here’s what you need to know about aging and dental health and potential treatments for aging teeth.

Preventing Oral Cancer by Kicking Unhealthy Habits

Oral cancer becomes more prevalent as you age. Although it isn’t common, doctors diagnose approximately 54,000 new cases yearly, with over 10,000 people dying from the disease. Those who survive may have to undergo surgery that drastically alters their physical appearance, sometimes leading to declines in mental health.

Your genetic profile and immune system strength can heighten your chances of contracting this disease. Fortunately, you can control many of the risk factors contributing to oral cancer:

  • Tobacco Use. You shouldn’t smoke and should take advantage of free resources to help you quit if you currently use tobacco. This rule also applies to cigars, pipes, chewing tobacco and snuff.
  • Heavy Alcohol Use. Women should have no more than one drink per day; men, no more than two.
  • Sunburnt Lip. Your lips can burn like any other surface. Wearing a lip balm with an SPF of at least 30 can help prevent this damage.
  • HPV Exposure. The human papillomavirus spreads through sexual activity. Fortunately, there is now a vaccine even children should take starting at age 9.

Of all the risk factors, using tobacco while drinking alcohol magnifies your chances of contracting the disease. Ideally, you should kick both habits, but quitting tobacco alone or not smoking while drinking can decrease your danger. Unfortunately, alcohol use increases your urge to smoke if you do — going cold turkey on both substances might seem challenging but offer your best chance of success.

Preserving Your Enamel Through Dietary Changes

Cancer risk isn’t the only reason you should decrease alcohol use as a preventative treatment for aging teeth. This substance also affects aging and dental health by putting you at a greater risk of caries or cavities.

That’s because alcohol contains sugars that contribute to tooth decay. Furthermore, heavy drinking makes you less likely to maintain proper oral hygiene like brushing before bed, partially explaining why alcoholics are three times more likely to suffer tooth loss than their sober peers.

Additionally, you should probably give up your morning glass of OJ, at least when it’s not the cold and flu season. Citrus fruits are highly acidic. Too much acid can erode your tooth enamel, leaving you more prone to stains, damage and cavities.

Other highly acidic foods include wine, tomatoes, berries and certain dairy products. However, the latter also contains proteins that help preserve your enamel.

What should you eat? Foods that act as natural toothbrushes while providing added nutritional benefits are a wise choice. For example, dark green cruciferous vegetables like kale and broccoli scrub away food particles from your enamel while providing healthy brain nutrition to prevent dementia and Alzheimer’s.

Dental Aging
Photo by Umanoide on Unsplash

Nuts are another go-to food when it comes to those best for aging and dental health. These foods contain plant-based sources of minerals like calcium and phosphorus your teeth need for optimal health.

Additionally, their crunchy nature gives your jaw a workout, helping preserve facial tone. They’re low in carbohydrates and won’t coat your teeth with sugars contributing to decay.

Finally, you should know what to avoid.

Added sugars are the biggest enemies of your tooth’s enamel. Watch out for foods with added sweeteners like corn syrup and stay away from sodas and juices, which can erode your teeth’s protective coating.

Dried fruits are problematic because they leave a coating on your teeth. Candy isn’t a wise choice, but varieties like taffy can stick to your tooth’s enamel, causing bacteria to flock to the region and cause cavities.

Repairing Wear and Tear From Effects of Dental Aging

Your teeth have seen a lot of use over the years. You’ll take millions of bites throughout your lifetime. Additionally, you’ll suffer various injuries, wearing away at your teeth over time.

Fortunately, your dentist has many options for treatment for aging teeth — one very good reason to keep your annual appointment.

For example, they might decide you’re a good candidate for crowns. Oral professionals use these devices to protect damaged teeth or hold weak teeth together, restore broken and worn-down teeth and cover and support those with large fillings and not much natural tooth remaining.

If your practitioner catches your damage in the early stages, you may be eligible for an onlay or ¾ crown. These models save you considerable money over full crowns, which cover the entire tooth.

Another treatment for aging teeth includes pulling the damaged numbers and replacing them with dentures. Dentures generally cost considerably less than other dental procedures. However, they also cause more hassles. You’ll have to master the art of removing and cleaning them, and in most cases, you’ll need to watch what you eat for the rest of your life. Certain foods, like corn on the cob, could cause your dentures to come loose.

If you’ve lost a few teeth but not several in a row, you might be a candidate for a bridge. In this procedure, your dentist places crowns on the teeth next to the gap, filling the space with a fake tooth affixed to both crowns. Other options include a partial denture that acts like a single removable tooth and dental implants, which offer a permanent fixed solution screwed into your jaw.

Protecting Against Further Damages

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Ultimately, the best treatment for aging teeth is preventative medicine. Brushing your teeth twice a day, flossing and rinsing at least once and seeing your dentist annually maintains your pearlies and alerts you to early signs of trouble so that you can take immediate corrective action.

You should brush your teeth in the morning and the evening, perhaps doing so an additional time after particularly sticky meals, like macaroni and cheese. If you don’t like dental floss, please avoid becoming one of the many who skip this step. Instead, look for softer dental tape.

Alternatively, opt for a water flosser that effectively removes plaque without requiring you to wrap a string around your fingers.

Your evening brush should be a full job of brushing, flossing and rinsing with a fluoride rinse. Try not to go to sleep with dirty teeth. You produce less saliva overnight and all that plaque invites cavity-causing bacteria.

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How often should you see your dentist?

For many adults, once per year is sufficient. However, you should also make an appointment if you suspect trouble. Furthermore, people with gum disease or weak teeth may need more frequent visits to monitor their progress.

When it comes to aging and dental health, early detection is key, so consider biannual visits if oral trouble runs in your family.

Common Changes in Teeth: How to Prevent Dental Aging

There’s a lot you should know about aging and dental health. What happens in your mouth significantly impacts your overall well-being.

Consider the common changes in teeth and methods to prevent dental aging mentioned above. With the right care and treatment for aging teeth, you can enjoy a healthy mouth for life.


About the Author

Dental Aging
Beth Rush

Beth Rush

Beth Rush is the Managing Editor and Content Manager at Body+Mind.

Body+Mind features articles about diet, fitness, mental health, parenting and health care.

 

 

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