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Facts About Senior Oral Health

Dec 31, 2017 by Larry Morgan

Our bodies endure many changes as we age, and our mouths are no exception. But how do I know what changes are normal and what aren’t? Here’s what you should know:

Normal Changes To Your Teeth

Aging can have an impact on the health of our teeth and mouth in many ways. The most common changes we see are:

  • Yellowing teeth
  • Bone loss
  • Increased sensitivity, especially to cold or hot foods
  • Gum recession

Additionally, seniors have a greater risk for cavities because of dry mouth and receding gums. The combination of these two leads to more exposed teeth, and an environment that can foster tooth decay.

Common Oral Health Myths Busted

There may also be some things you’ve heard about oral health as we age that are actually myths. Here are the most common ones, busted:

I’m guaranteed to lose teeth as I age.

While you may assume you’ll end up with dentures at some point, it turns out that senior oral health has been steadily increasing over the years. There are even older folks in their 90’s and 100’s who still have most or all of their natural teeth!

This therefore means that other factors contribute more to tooth loss than aging. These may include diet, tobacco use, or your overall oral hygiene.

I won’t be able to taste as well when I’m older.

Though it is true the density of our taste buds decreases with age, loss of taste is usually caused by something else – primarily, smoking, disease, or poor nutrition.

Certain medications or an injury to the brain or mouth may also affect how you taste things. Consult your doctor if you notice a change in how you taste after an injury or after switching to any new medications.

I’ll definitely get dry mouth.

Again, it may be true that our salivary glands begin to function less well over the years, but they are not the main culprit. It’s usually medications that cause dry mouth. If you’re experiencing this, talk to your doctor to get to the root of the problem and treat your symptoms.

Keeping Your Teeth and Mouth Happy and Healthy

Regardless of these myths, there are steps you can take to prevent both the normal and abnormal changes in your oral health:

  • For dry mouth, make sure you are staying hydrated. Additionally, avoid consuming beverages that contain too much sugar or caffeine, and lay of the liquor.
  • To prevent cavities, use an electric toothbrush instead of a normal one, and be sure to include fluoride into your regimen (high fluoride toothpaste and a daily mouth rinse, for example).
  • In regards to yellowing, some yellowing is albeit unavoidable. Darker stains can be prevented, however, by avoiding foods such as coffee, cola, or red wine. Smoking can also impact the color of your teeth.

In general, a healthy diet and good oral hygiene can help keep your teeth strong, clean, and healthy. If you have more questions or are concerned about something regarding your oral health, consult your dentist.

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