Why Care About Dental Care?

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Mairead Robinson looks at how to keep and care for your teeth as the years roll by.

For most of us, one of the most distressing signs of ageing can be dental changes and the loss of our teeth as gums recede, sensitivity increases and colour darkens.  As we live longer and fuller lives, dental health becomes all the more important. By and large, dental care doesn’t turn inside out when you reach a certain age, but we have to do more to keep our smile strong and to continue to enjoy eating our favourite foods.  There is no doubt that we need to increase our dental hygiene regime, and the trick is to start as early as possible.  So no matter what age you are today, this is the best time for you to start – right now!

Oral health is so important for general health as well as for confidence.  The main issues we face regarding our teeth as we age are:

  • Darkened teeth: Expect changes to dentin and a lifetime of stain-causing food and drink to finally show your teeth’s age.
  • Diminished taste: Medications, diseases, and other effects of aging can and will make changes in the way things taste.
  • Dry mouth: Reduced saliva can be a factor in certain medical conditions including diabetes and cancer treatments. It’s also normal as you age to see a drop in saliva, which can lead to other dental issues.
  • Root decay: Tooth decay isn’t exactly a new problem, but it gets more difficult to manage as you get older. Especially if you don’t take care of your teeth when you’re young.
  • Gum disease: Plaque build up can lead to decay and receding gums. Eventually it will lead to loose teeth which means…
  • Tooth loss: If you don’t take care of your teeth, you will lose them – guaranteed.

As you age, it becomes even more important to take good care of your teeth and dental health. One common misconception is that losing your teeth is inevitable. This is not true. If cared for properly, your teeth can last a lifetime.

Your mouth changes as you age. The nerves in your teeth can become smaller, making your teeth less sensitive to cavities or other problems. If you don’t get regular dental exams, this in turn can lead to these problems not being diagnosed until it is too late.

If you notice the gums starting to recede, which can impact on both aesthetic and functional issues in the mouth, your dentist may suggest changing to a softer tooth brush. If you suffer from dry mouth, it can help to sip tap water regularly or chew sugar-free gum.

Caring for our oral and dental health will help us to eat well and by enjoying a healthy diet, our overall health is maintained. Dundrum Dental Surgery (Dublin) advise that tooth loss and the wearing of loose or uncomfortable dentures can be a major reason that older people cannot chew well and thus may not consume optimal nutrients. If you lose teeth, jaw bone levels can also be lost, leading to further problems with chewing and denture use.

You may notice saliva production decreasing with age, and this can be decreased further by some drugs. The decrease in saliva causes dry mouth which can effect digestion, chewing and health.

The good news is that these changes in the mouth can be minimized and even reversed with modern dental treatments, meaning we can stay confident and eat healthily for many years longer than ever previously possible.

Many of us are aware of inflammation and its association with heart disease, and more research is pointing to links between gum disease and heart disease. Hygienist treatments can eliminate gum disease and prevent problems previously associated with getting older.

Modern dental Implant treatments mean that loose ill-fitting dentures can be a thing of the past, even for those people who were previously not suitable for dental implants. As implant treatment in older patients can be more demanding to achieve great results, they recommend these implants be placed by a dedicated implant expert providing implant treatment with years of expertise and achieving excellent results for older patients, in their case Dr Wilson Grigolli.  Dundrum Dental Surgery in Dublin can be contacted at 01-2986029  www.dundrumdentalsurgery.ie

When it comes to wearing dentures, it is vital that you look after these correctly as you age and secure the best advice and care.  Citygate Specialist Dental Clinic – www.citygatedental.ie – is a state of the art dental facility located in Cork and as a referral based practice work closely with general dentists to provide advanced dental care solutions including implants, crowns, dentures and bridges. Regarding dentures they explain “ Dentures are removable appliances used as an option to replace missing teeth, to help restore your smile and are made to look similar to your own natural teeth. As we get older some of us will experience tooth loss which is usually attributed to a sustained injury, through gum disease or from tooth decay.  Over time dentures can become loose, ill-fitting or as reported by our patients never having fitted comfortably in the first place. These issues can cause patients difficulty when speaking, eating and in turn can result in a loss of confidence. Fortunately, there are now many ways to remedy this problem including implant based dentures or other solutions such as teeth in a day where a fixed set of teeth are placed soon after implant placement”. Contact City Gate Dental in Cork to find out more at 021-4614520

Dr Paul O’Dwyer, Group Clinical Advisor with Dental Care Ireland highlights the specific issues facing older people regarding their dental health.  “It is normal for gums to recede with age, which can expose roots.  However, the root of the tooth is more prone to dental decay, and can be more difficult to keep clean. Dry mouth can also be an issue for some patients, usually as a side effect of taking medications, which in turn can increase the risk of decay.  As we age, any previous tooth restorations such as crowns, bridges and fillings, can also begin to show signs of wear and tear.”

If you notice the gums starting to recede, which can impact on both aesthetic and functional issues in the mouth, your dentist may suggest changing to a softer tooth brush. If you suffer from dry mouth, it can help to sip tap water regularly or chew sugar-free gum.

Finally, as we get older, our risk of general systemic health issues increases, and so it is important for patients to consider their future oral health care. This is particularly true for those who may have a long-term illness or incapacity.

Tips for Maintaining and Improving Your Oral Health

  • Brush twice a day with a toothbrush with soft bristles. You may also benefit from using an electric toothbrush.
  • Clean between your teeth once a day with floss or another flossing tool.
  • If you wear full or partial dentures, remember to clean them on a daily basis. Take your dentures out of your mouth for at least four hours every day. It’s best to remove them at night.
  • Drink tap water. Since most contains fluoride, it helps prevent tooth decay no matter how old you are.
  • Quit smoking. Besides putting you at greater risk for lung and other cancers, smoking increases problems with gum disease, tooth decay and tooth loss.
  •  Visit your dentist regularly for a complete dental check-up.

By adopting healthy oral habits at home, making smart choices about diet and lifestyle, and seeking regular dental care, you can help your teeth last a lifetime—whether you have your natural teeth, implants or wear dentures.

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Senior Times also publishes Senior Times magazine and are organisers of the 50 Plus Expo’s in Dublin, Cork, Galway and Killarney.

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