As we age and approach our senior years, changes to our health and in bodies begin to become evident. For those in the age group over 60, these changes can be either small or they can be significant. Although our oral health most definitely can be affected by age, according to Dr. Dirk Thompson, D.D.S., a Calgary dentist, this does not mean that tooth loss or poor oral health is inevitable. Here are six tips from our Calgary dentist, Dr. Dirk Thompson, to keep your smile white, bright and healthy for a lifetime.
Visit Your Dentist Regularly
Regular visits to your Calgary dentist and dental hygienist are not just for young people. In fact, as you age, it is just as important to ensure that you maintain regular visits to your dentist for dental check-ups and teeth cleanings to ensure that any issues that may be developing can be treated as quickly as possible so as to avoid more extensive issues, if at all possible.
Another reason to continue to visit your dentist regularly as we age is because, as we age, the nerves in our teeth become smaller and therefore less sensitive. Because of this decrease in the sensitivity of our teeth, you may not be aware that you have a cavity until you feel pain. Unfortunately, by this point, the decay in your tooth may be extensive and the tooth may not be saveable. So, don't wait until you are in pain to see your dentist. Regular check-ups and cleanings can detect the early stages of decay and treat them with a filling or crown so you can save your precious teeth for your lifetime.
At your regular check-ups with your Calgary dentist, you will also be checked for oral conditions such as gum disease or oral cancer. Often, gum disease and oral cancer do not cause any pain and can be insidious. Again, regular check-ups and cleanings by your dentist and dental hygienist can detect these conditions at their early stages to give you the advantage of early treatment and hopefully a better outcome than if the condition progressed to a more advanced stage.
Don't Ignore Dry Mouth
If you are over 60, you may notice that you are getting more cavities now than you did in your younger adult years. Our Calgary dentist is often asked why this is the case. While the reasons vary depending upon the patient, one culprit can be dry mouth.
The lack of saliva in our mouth which causes dry mouth is a major contributor to cavities as saliva acts as a protective coating on our teeth. This lack of saliva can be caused by a variety of factors. One of the major causes of dry mouth is medication use.
Interestingly, according to the American Dental Association, there are over 500 medications that have the side effect of a dry mouth. These medications include those used for Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, asthma, high blood pressure and arthritis. This is why it is particularly important to advise your Calgary dentist at every dental visit of all of the medications, both prescribed and over-the-counter, as well as supplements and herbal remedies, that you are taking.
If you are suffering from dry mouth, be sure to ask our Calgary dentist, Dr. Dirk Thompson, about treatments available to address this uncomfortable condition. Our Calgary dentist may recommend one or more of the following options:
- Use an over-the-counter oral moisturizer such as a mouthwash which is specifically formulate for dry-mouth or an oral spray.
- Make sure you are drinking enough water every day. If you get thirsty during the day, this may be an indication that you are not drinking enough water during the day.
- Speak with your physician and/or pharmacist about your dry mouth side effects and ask whether your medication can be changed.
- Chew sugar free gum which can stimulate the production of saliva.
- Try to avoid foods and beverages such as coffee, alcohol and carbonated beverages, as these types of foods can actually make your dry mouth more severe.
Get Enough Calcium
As we get older, it is particularly important that we have enough calcium in our diet to prevent osteoporosis and bone loss. Although most people are familiar with the effects of osteoporosis in bones such as the hip and wrists, our Calgary dentist reminds his patients that osteoporosis can also affect the jaw bone. According to our dentist, Dr. Dirk Thompson, when osteoporosis affects the jaw bone, this can actually lead to very serious consequences including loose teeth or even teeth that fall out.
One easy way to help to avoid the consequences of osteoperosis is to ensure that you are getting enough calcium in your diet. And remember, the source of the calcium appears to be significant, not only to our oral heatlh, but also to our overall health. In fact, according to the American Dental Association, a recent study revealed that people who obtained their calcium almost exclusively from supplements were actually more than twice as likely as people who obtained their calcium from natural food sources to have a heart attack.
If you are not sure whether you are getting enough calcoium in your diet, speak with our Calgary dentist, physician or nutrotionist who can help you assess whether you are meeting your daily calcium requirements. According to the American Dental Association, the daily recommended amount of calcium for the majority of adults is 1,000 milligrams per day. And remember, the best sources of calcium are from low-fat dairy foods such as cheese, milk and yogurt (and the occasional ice cream treat wouldn’t hurt!).
Brush and Floss Your Teeth Twice A Day
By now, most patients are aware that they should be brushings and flossings their teeth twice per day and, if they are patients of our Calgary dentist office, have heard this advice repeatedly (it's that important!). However, our Calgary dentist is often asked whether an electric toothbrush is better than a manual one. According to our Calgary dentist, in most circumstances, it really does not make a difference whether you use a good old fashioned manual toothbrush or a battery powered or electric toothbrush, provided you choose a toothbrush with soft bristles and your make sure you are brushing all visible surfaces of your teeth adequately.
Keep in mind that, if you suffer from any mobility issues such as arthritis and have decreased movement in your shoulders, wrists or fingers, our Calgary dentist recommends that you consider using an electric toothbrush for the simple reason that it may allow you to clean your teeth more thoroughly and be more comfortable for you. If you wish to continue to use a manual toothbrush, our Calgary dentist recommends that you use one that has a small head to make it easier to get to hard to reach areas, and to try a toothbrush with a bigger handle that may make it easier to grasp.
If You Wear Dentures, Clean Them Daily
If you are a denture wearer, it is extremely important that you clean your dentures daily. When doing so, it is essential that you use a cleaner that is formulated specifically for dentures. Never clean your dentures with any household cleaner or even toothpastes that are made for natural teeth.
Also, according to our dentist in Calgary, it is important that you remove your dentures for at least four hours per day (or for whatever period of time you are instructed to remove them by your dentist) to keep the lining of your gums healthy. Most people find that during the night while they sleep is the best and most convenient time to remove their dentures.
Quit Using Tobacco Products
If you think it is too late to quit smoking when you are over the age of 60, thing again! According to our Calgary dentist, smoking can contribute to gum disease and can adversely affect the body’s ability to heal itself. This can affect the healing process when you undergo dental treatment such as teeth extractions. It can also impede the success rate of other types of dental treatment such as dental implants.
If you would like to quit smoking, ask our Calgary dentist, your physician or your pharmacist about tobacco cessation programs, over-the-counter medications or prescription medications that can help you achieve your goal of stopping tobacco use. Remember, it is never too late to quit smoking or using other tobacco products. Both your oral and overall health will thank you for taking this very important step.
Your oral health is an important element in your overall health as you age. It would be our Calgary dentist’s privilege to be your partner in your oral health care. If you have any questions about your oral health, our Calgary dentist is here to help. Call our office at 403.283.4252 to make an appointment at our Calgary dentist office for a meet and greet, consultation or dental appointment. Let's make your smile last a lifetime!
Please be advised that this blog post is for informational purposes only. It is not to be taken or used as a substitute for dental, medical or other professional advice, treatment or diagnosis. Always ask your dentist, physician or other healthcare professional for advice before altering your diet or healthcare routine. Individual patient needs and oral healthcare concerns vary so please consult your dentist for more informtion about your specific dental health requirements.
Copyright: Dirk A. Thompson Professional Corporation operating as Advance Your Health Dental. Dr. Dirk A. Thompson, D.D.S., is a general dentist in Calgary, Alberta, Canada.
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