Updated: Sep 17
The Importance of Oral Health Throughout the Aging Process
Maintaining impeccable oral health, regardless of your age, is important to prevent mouth wear and tear as well as infections.
However, as you age, your teeth naturally become more susceptible to dental issues, such as gum disease, just because they have had more time to wear down.
Poor oral health has also been linked to conditions like diabetes and heart disease, plus, those who use tobacco often decrease their oral health and increase their risk for cancers of the mouth and throat.
When you work toward better oral health as you age though, you will decrease your risk for these diseases.
9 Proven Steps to Consider for Teeth Protection
Regular Dental Check-ups
All adults should visit a dentist at least twice a year or once every six months. Aging adults should also follow this guideline, and those who have dentures are no exception since dentists can check for gum, mouth, and throat issues.
Dentists typically check aging adults for any mouth sores, bleeding, or inflammation at each general check-up since these are signs of diseases that must be treated immediately. Even if you don't have any pain or discomfort in your mouth, you should still let a professional take a look to help you identify possible hidden conditions.
At a dental check-up, you can also expect to have your teeth cleaned of excess plaque, which will lighten your teeth and prevent gum disease from developing.
The longer we live, the longer we use our teeth, which makes them more likely to become chipped or damaged. The enamel of our teeth also wears down over time, and this enamel is essential for keeping teeth hard and strong.
To prevent broken teeth as you age, opt to eat softer foods over hard ones. Overly crunchy items, such as ice, should be avoided.
Address Dental Issues Promptly
Dental issues often take a long time to develop, but once they do, they can quickly progress into dangerous diseases or injuries that increase your risk for infections. If your dentist alerts you of an issue at a check-up, schedule a follow-up appointment as soon as possible to address the issue.
Untreated mouth infections are specifically dangerous because the bloodstream can pick up an infection directly through the gums. This can lead to sepsis, a blood infection that can lead to death if not treated immediately.
Prevent Teeth Grinding (Bruxism) Damage
Teeth grinding, or bruxism, is often caused by an abnormal bite or missing teeth. Additionally, teeth grinding usually occurs during a person's sleep, so it can be difficult for people with this condition to realize that they are even doing it.
Bruxism can damage teeth by causing them to chip or break, damaging or injuring the jaw over time if left untreated. Wearing a dental night guard is the best option for people with bruxism to prevent mouth injuries.
Practice Stress Management
While you may not realize it, stress can majorly impact your mouth's health. Bruxism is sometimes caused by stress, and dry mouth can be brought on when a person experiences episodes of anxiety. Canker and cold sores in the mouth have also been shown to be brought on more frequently in people with high-stress levels.
If you experience anxiety due to stress, consider talking to a doctor to discuss ways to lower it, such as with medications or therapy. Some people also find that breathing techniques help them keep their stress under control, while others turn to exercises, like yoga, to manage stress.
Keep a Balanced Diet
For those with dry mouth, a poor diet with little hydration could be the source of the problem. Eating foods high in acidic levels could be to blame for those with enamel loss.
To prevent these issues, consider balancing your diet with fewer, usually highly acidic fruits and more vegetables. You should also be sure to consume enough water to support your diet, about 11.5 to 15.5 cups daily is the recommended amount.
Quit Bad Habits
Chewing and smoking tobacco have been proven time and time again to cause cancers of the mouth, throat, and lungs. Consuming tobacco has also been directly linked with countless mouth diseases, and most of these diseases can be prevented when you quit.
Consider using a nicotine replacement therapy and support system to help you quit as soon as possible to stop tobacco's negative effects early.
Similar to the acid found in fruits, the chemical makeup of sugar can destroy your teeth's enamel the more you consume it. To protect your enamel, which can shield your teeth from sensitivity and pain, eliminate sugary foods and drinks from your diet. Desserts, sodas, and fruit juices are some of the most common sugar-packed items you can easily cut out.
Protect Against Tooth Decay
While you can't reverse the damage your teeth have taken over the years, you can prevent further damage by brushing and flossing daily. Aim to brush your teeth twice a day with fluoride toothpaste since fluoride is proven to prevent tooth decay, and always floss at least once a day to remove food build-up that, when left in the mouth, can attract bacteria that cause decay.
Our teeth naturally wear down as we age and become more susceptible to mouth-related diseases. However, you can still keep your mouth healthy by doing things like avoiding sugary and acidic foods, brushing and flossing your teeth daily, and managing your stress.
What are the first signs of oral health problems as you age?
Perhaps the most common symptoms of oral health issues are soreness or bleeding in the gums, which may indicate gum disease. Sores and red or white patches are also the early warning signs of mouth cancer, and these often appear in aging adults.
Why is my smile crooked as I age?
Crooked teeth in aging adults are sometimes a natural process, but they can also be a sign of an underlying problem. Gum disease is one condition that can make the teeth themselves become crooked while bruxism, or teeth grinding, is another condition that can cause the jaw to become crooked over time.
Can chronic conditions affect oral health as we age?
Some studies have shown that adults with chronic health conditions, such as arthritis or heart disease, may be more likely to develop gum disease as they age. However, not all studies are conclusive since it is possible for all adults, with or without chronic health conditions, to prevent gum disease and other mouth issues with proper oral care.