If you've ever considered the prospect of living without teeth as you age, it's probably caused you considerable amount of distress just thinking about it. Multiple tooth loss can indeed be traumatic and costly, and, for some, the remedies are less than ideal. That said, you'll be pleased to know that aging itself isn't much of a contributor to tooth loss, and that many people live their entire lives with nearly all of their natural teeth intact. So what's the best way to ensure you're among this coveted group?
Let's face it. We all want to keep our natural teeth. Here are a few ways to ensure you do just that as you move along in years. And remember, there is no defined age where problems start to arise, so thinking ahead regardless of your current age is always a good idea.
Periodontal Disease: Without a doubt, gum disease is the number one destroyer of smiles. When thinking of dental problems, most people think of cavities, but tooth loss is more often related to periodontal (gum and bone) issues. Gum disease starts with gingivitis, which is the inflammation of soft tissue that makes you gums red and swollen. If this goes unchecked you will progress into periodontal disease, which involves the loss of attachment of the teeth to the surrounding gums and bone. In advanced stages teeth loosen and may be lost. There is no cure for this leading cause of adult tooth loss in North America, and once it begins, it can only be proactively and professionally managed. When caught early, periodontal disease may not become a problem, but that means you must maintain your regular visits, and you may be placed on a periodic maintenance routine where you visit your dentist more than twice a year. Be sure to keep those appointments - they will help you keep your teeth.
Although the onset of periodontal disease is related to many factors (ask your dentist at CrossKeys Dental), the best way to avoid problems is good home care. I always say that the best (and cheapest!) dental insurance is a toothbrush and floss...
Systemic Disease: There are a host of diseases that can adversely affect oral health. For decades diabetes & heart disease have been studied, and even recently the link between these diseases and periodontal disease has been found to be stronger than ever before. It is important to be mindful of this connection, and maintaining an open door of communication with your doctor and dentist while undergoing treatment may help you minimize the effects these diseases can have on your teeth.
Poor Habits: We all know a diet high in sugar, starch and acid will harm your surface enamel and lessens a tooth's ability to protect itself from decay. You may not know, however, that smoking and excessive alcohol consumption can also do significant harm. For example, both cigarette smoke and alcohol rob gum tissue of the moisture needed to keep it healthy, leaving it acidic and prone to decay, and smoking can interrupt the mouth's natural healing mechanisms. More benign habits can also damage teeth. For instance, consistently gnawing on objects not designed to be in the mouth all day, like pencils, pipes, paper clips and ice cubes, are not good habits to pursue. Additionally, using your teeth as a vice to open bottles and rip apart bags is best left to those among us committed to losing teeth, not keeping them.
Prescription Medication: Lastly, certain medications can dry out the mouth in ways similar to smoking and alcohol. Many of our patients are regularly taking prescription drugs. A growing number of people, especially the older population, are prescribed two or more drugs for various ailments. This can often cause a compounding effect, causing a greater feeling of dryness. This is where communication with your physician is key. Let your dentist know what you are taking so that we can set up a game plan that may involve medications that are still beneficial without the drying effect. Also, be sure to keep your hydration in check as per your doctor’s recommendations, or use chewing gum or lozenges with Xylitol to help maintain saliva production throughout the day. Other products and techniques are also available, so if you feel like your mouth is dry lets us know!
So, as you can see, allowing your “permanent” teeth to live up to their name really isn't that difficult. The old TV image of every grandpa throughout the land dropping his teeth into a bedside jar at the close of the day is far from a reality for the majority of today's seniors, and it doesn't have to be for you either. Maintain a solid oral care routine, and ask your care providers about keeping a healthy mouth throughout your years, and you'll be well on your way to ensuring your teeth stay just where you want them to be – in your mouth.
CrossKeys Dental is located at 110 CrossKeys Office Park in Fairport. Dr. DuPre` and Dr. Badali provide comprehensive family dentistry and are always welcoming new patients. Visit us at www.CrossKeysDentalFairport.com for more information.
© 2015 Patient Connect 365 - modified for CrossKeys Dental in Fairport, NY by Vince Badali, DDS