Dental health is important at every stage in your life, from childhood until your golden years. But it’s especially important to take good care of your teeth and gums as you get older. Let’s find out how your dentist can help you get the most out of your golden years!
Recovery and healing
As we get older our body’s immune system and ability to recover and heal slows down. We’re more prone to infections and other complications. That’s why the prevention of cavities, gum disease, and other dental health problems is so important. By maintaining good oral health you hopefully won’t need any fillings, root canals, gum disease treatments, or implants.
An ounce of prevention really is worth a pound of cure, especially as you get older!
What happens to our teeth and gums as we get older?
There are a variety of common dental health issues that affect us as we get older, including:
- Dry mouth – Older people produce less saliva, leading to dry mouth and an increased risk of cavities. Dry mouth is also a side effect of many medicines, including those for high blood pressure and cholesterol.
- Weaker bones – Osteoporosis is common in older folks, which can increase your risk of tooth loss.
- Gum disease and tooth decay – Our immune systems “slow down” as we get older, leading to many problems, including gum disease and cavities.
Living your best life
As we age it sometimes gets harder to do the things we love. Our bodies just can’t keep up! Exercising your mind and body can help you stay active and enjoying your life. But most people don’t think of how much the health of their teeth and gums affect their lives. For example, the health of your mouth can dictate the foods you can eat.
Missing teeth, teeth that are damaged by cavities, and gum disease can make it painful or impossible to eat foods and drinks that are:
- Hot and cold
- Chewy or sticky
Taking care of your teeth as you get older helps you to continue to enjoy the foods you love!
In addition to eating, missing or damaged teeth can affect your ability to speak. Most people don’t realize this but a lisp and other speech issues are commonly caused by dental problems like missing, crooked, or damaged teeth.
Keeping your teeth and gums healthy will help you live independently and happily in your golden years!
What if you do lose a tooth?
For decades, the only way to fix missing teeth was with old-fashioned adhesive dentures — the kind designed to stick to your gums. Adhesive dentures have a whole host of drawbacks:
- Prone to slipping and sliding
- Cleaning is a hassle
- Aren’t secure enough to eat all foods
- May stain easily from coffee or wine
- Do nothing to prevent the loss of bone tissue in the jaw, leading to a “sunken” facial appearance
Plus dentures just tend to make people feel older and less confident about their appearance. There’s no reason you can’t have a healthy, happy, and beautiful smile for your entire life — even if you’ve lost teeth.
Dental implants are the answer! Implants are made from space-age titanium and act as replacement “roots” for your teeth. They actually strengthen your jaw bone and create a rock-solid foundation for natural-looking and beautiful crowns, dentures, or dental bridges. Implants let you eat your favorite foods and smile confidently without the hassle or embarrassment of old fashioned dentures.
Keep up with your preventive care
Like we talked about earlier, prevention is a key component of oral health, especially as you get older. It’s very important to see the dentist every 6 months or so for:
- Thorough cleaning
- X-rays (as needed)
- Dental exam
If your dentist does spot a small cavity, you can create a treatment plan to repair it while it’s still a minor issue. When you miss dental appointments, small problems can become big ones. While our dentists and teamwork to provide the most minimally-invasive treatments possible, the risk of complications increases as you get older. Plus as we get older it takes longer to recover. By focusing on prevention, we can help you stay healthy and minimize your chances of needing a filling, crown, implant or other procedure.
Emphasizing the connection between dental health and whole-body health
As we get older, it’s only natural to begin to experience more health issues, not just in your mouth but throughout your entire body. But the health of your mouth is more closely linked to the health of your body than you might realize. In some cases, your dentist might be able to spot the early warning signs of common ailments and diseases.
There’s a very close link between diabetes and gum disease. People with diabetes often have a hard time fighting off infections like gum disease. Plus, there is some research indicating that the bacteria that cause gum disease may also increase your risk of acquiring diabetes.
Heart disease and stroke
Heart disease and stroke are among the leading causes of death for older folks. And just like diabetes, there’s mounting evidence showing the link between gum disease and heart attacks. So how does that link exist?
- When gum disease takes root, your gums become tender and inflamed
- Inflamed gums are subject to sores and cuts, bleeding easily
- Bacteria in your mouth enter your bloodstream and spread throughout the body
- Bacterial infections place stress on your body’s immune system, leading to systemic problems like heart disease, high blood pressure, and stroke
Other conditions connected to gum disease
In addition to diabetes and heart disease, these conditions have also been linked to oral bacteria:
- Kidney, liver, and pancreatic cancers
- Alzheimer’s disease
Keeping gum disease at bay and maintaining a healthy mouth can keep your body healthy, too!
Don’t neglect the appearance of your teeth
Of course, our primary focus is on helping you maintain the health of your teeth and gums. But we also know that how you look directly influences your self-confidence and quality of life. If you’re concerned about stained teeth (which are very common as we age) or other cosmetic issues, our dentists can help! Talk to us about powerful teeth whitening treatments, veneers, and other cosmetic dental treatments.
We’ll see you soon!
At First Impressions Dentistry, we welcome patients of all ages, including the young and the young at heart! Schedule your appointment online to get started. Working together we can help you achieve healthy teeth and gums for the rest of your life.
Dr. Cole attended Oklahoma State University and earned a degree in physiology. After studying dentistry at the University of Oklahoma College of Dentistry, Dr. Cole continued his education in the Advanced Education Program’s general dentistry residency program. He is highly trained in placing and restoring dental implants and providing comprehensive dental care. By taking a personalized approach to dentistry, Dr. Cole meets the needs of his patients and exceeds their expectations.