Proper oral care can keep you smiling well into your late years Brushing at least twice a day with a fluoride toothpaste and a soft-bristle brush are as important as ever as you age. Flossing can help you save your teeth by removing plaque between teeth and below the gum line that your toothbrush cannot reach.
Most people don’t realize how important it is to take care of their gums. Gingivitis is caused by the bacteria found in plaque that attack the gums. Symptoms of gingivitis include red, swollen gums and possible bleeding when you brush. If you have any of these symptoms, see a dentist at once. Gingivitis can lead to periodontal disease if problems persist. Three out of four adults over age 35 are affected by some sort of gum (periodontal) disease. In gum disease, the infection becomes severe. Your gums begin to recede, pulling back from the teeth. In the worst cases, bacteria form pockets between the teeth and gums, weakening the bone. All this can lead to tooth loss if untreated, especially in patients with osteoporosis. If regular oral care is too difficult, your dentist can provide alternatives to aid in flossing and prescribe medication to keep the infection from getting worse.
If you have arthritis, you may find it difficult to brush and floss for good oral health care and prevention of disease. Ask your dentist for ways to overcome this problem. Certain dental products are designed to make dental care less painful for arthritis sufferers.
Oral cancer most often occurs in people over 40 years of age. Because oral cancer is often painless and may not show obvious signs in its early stages, it is important to see a dentist regularly for oral cancer screenings. In between regular check-ups, if you notice any red or white patches in your mouth or on your tongue or have a sore(s) that fail to heal within two weeks, you should see your dentist. In the event that you wear dentures and have no problems with them, you should still have oral cancer screening every 6 months.
Dry mouth (xerostomia) happens when salivary glands fail to work due to disease, certain medications or cancer treatment. This can make it hard to eat, swallow, taste and speak. In certain cases, such as radiation therapy, dry mouth can lead to severe complications, which is why it is important you see a dentist immediately before beginning any form of cancer treatment. Drinking lots of water and avoiding sweets, tobacco, alcohol and caffeine are some ways to fight dry mouth. Your dentist also can prescribe medications to fight a severe form of this condition.
Studies have shown that maintaining a healthy mouth means a healthier body and can help you avoid diabetes, heart disease and stroke. The best way to achieve good oral health is to visit your dentist for an evaluation and cleaning at least twice a year.