Fortunately, my family won the genetic lottery when it comes to teeth. My parents both have perfect smiles and good health.
And some say I have a trillion dollar smile. But what happens to our smiles as we age?
Does everyone’s teeth eventually fall out?
Most people assume losing teeth are a natural part of aging. Not so. It’s not natural.
There are only five things cause teeth to fall out:
2. Severe illness (diabetes, cancer, osteomyelitis or autoimmune diseases)
3. Gum disease
4. Lifestyle, what you eat and drink along with your oral hygiene
5. Drugs such as heroin and methamphetamine (also called speed, ice or meth), cocaine, or crack cause severe tooth decay and teeth falling out in a very short amount of time.
Another form of tooth decay comes in a can. Soda is toxic to your teeth.
Other things that harm your teeth include: acidic foods and drinks (soda is highly acidic), some mouth fresheners, some tooth whiteners and a lack of vitamin C and K.
Foods high in sugar (sweets) and carbs can also cause tooth decay.
See your dentist if your gums bleed or you feel any pain or sensitivity, as that may be an early warning sign of gum disease. It’s worth it to keep an annual cleaning and checkup appointment.
Teeth begin to age and shift in your mid-20s. In your 30s, you start to lose bone, which makes gums recede.
In your 40s and 50s, top teeth will appear shorter as the lower teeth shift. Chewing, grinding and stress all affect your teeth. Women in perimenopause and menopause will have more stress than usual due to sleep problems as will men with high levels of stress.
A lot of stress goes to people’s jaws, which causes grinding and pressure on back teeth. Tooth grinding is also known as bruxism and can cause chipped, fractured and worn tooth enamel or increased sensitivity –even headaches.
If you have stress in your life, try to alleviate it with getting rest, exercise and fresh air. You can also get fitted for a night guard. This prevent clenching or grinding your teeth in your sleep. It’s pricey, so you may want to try eliminating any stressors first.
Surprising new information from a recent issue of the Journal of Dental Research indicates seniors who sleep in dentures are at higher risk of developing pneumonia as bacteria from the mouth can be inhaled into the lungs.
The American Dental Association warns bacteria allowed to linger in the mouth can cause tooth decay, gum disease and tooth loss.
If you want to keep your natural teeth forever, it’s important to take care of them now.
There is a higher risk of dental disease leading to other health problems as we age.
Seniors may need to enlist family members and other loved ones to assist with dental hygiene.
The ADA encourages caregivers, whether the seniors are at home or in a nursing home, to supervise or aid in maintaining seniors’ dental health by making sure they brush twice a day, floss once a day, eat a healthy diet and visit the dentist regularly.
Hearing impairment is common among seniors.
For this reason, a caregiver can play an important communications role between a senior and the dentist by helping them prepare questions prior to their dental appointment.
Dentists providing written instructions helps in communicating with seniors too.
The ADA provides dental health tips for seniors and their caregivers
Judith Jones, DDS, from the American Dental Association is the director of the Center for Clinical Research at the University Goldman School of Dental Medicine in Boston. She is also a published researcher and serves on the editorial boards of The Journal of the American Dental Association.
Turns out, the same advice dentists gave you when you were a kid still holds true when you’re a senior.
BRUSH TWICE A DAY (Rinse with water anytime you eat)
FLOSS ONCE A DAY (My favorite are floss toothpicks. Portable and super easy to use)
EAT HEALTHY (Best foods for teeth are apples, cheese, yogurt, foods high in calcium)
Click here for Dr. Judith Jones answers to the following questions: http://bcove.me/v3of9lb0
•What are some specific oral health concerns of older Americans?
•What can caregivers do to help seniors maintain their dental health?
•Why is it important for people with dentures to visit their dentist?
•Are there any dental products that are particularly suited for the needs of older people?
Dr. Jones offers the following Dental Tips for caregivers:
Encourage seniors to:
- Use an electric toothbrush twice a day with a fluoride toothpaste
- Use an interdental cleaner to floss teeth once day
- Eat a healthy diet
- Tell dentist if they develop dry mouth, which can lead to tooth decay
- Clean gums daily and remove dentures at night if they wear them
INTERVIEW WITH DR. JUDITH JONES: http://bcove.me/v3of9lb0
For More Information including the ADA® Find-a-Dentist™ tool:
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Photo: Maria Dorfner