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Maintaining a Sparkling Smile as You Age

A healthy set of teeth is one of our most valuable assets, but many people don’t even think of teeth in terms of aging. While doctors counsel us on how to keep our bodies healthy, and commercials offer us remedies for the common side effects of aging, no one ever talks about how to keep your teeth young and attractive.

Decades ago, it was virtually a given that, after a certain age, a full set of dentures was assuredly in your future; but thanks to advancements in dentistry and dental care, this is no longer the case, and many people are able to retain their teeth, along with the smile they were born with.

The good news is, three-quarters of people over 65 are now able to keep at least some, if not all, of their natural teeth. On the flip side, people over 65 are extremely prone to tooth decay; more so even than school children. Likewise, the chance of needing a root canal, or a similarly invasive procedure, triples after age 65.

That’s why it’s imperative to learn how to not only protect your teeth as you get older; but also maintain them so you can retain your oral health and sparkling smile. A healthy smile will make you not only look, but also feel years younger. In addition, good oral hygiene can save you thousands of dollars in dentist bills — bills that can be avoided by a bit of daily maintenance.

Teeth and Aging

While it’s easy to think of how our bones and joints can deteriorate with age — thanks to all those years of heavy usage — we don’t apply the same logic to our teeth. The unfortunate fact is, however, that teeth age just as bones and joints do — sometimes with disastrous effects. For example, decades of constant grinding and crunching will naturally wear away tooth enamel. Likewise, years of consuming acidic foods and beverages — such as coffee and fruits — can dissolve enamel as well. As enamel wears away, a tooth can develop cracks and breaks that can lead to inflammation and nerve damage.

While teeth can age, gums can age as well. Gums recede with age, which can leave root tissue exposed and vulnerable to nerve damage. Even if you’ve conscientiously cared for your teeth all your life, all those repairs and fillings can get old and break down, which can lead to tooth decay.

Medications are also major culprits because they can keep you from producing normal amounts of saliva. Dry mouth is notorious for causing a myriad of oral problems, including gum and tongue sores, cavities, gum disease, and tooth decay. Likewise, conditions such as autoimmune illnesses and diabetes can cause dry mouth and oral sores as well.

In addition, medications, food, coffee, wine, and tobacco can stain your teeth so that they darken considerably as you get older. In fact, dark, stained teeth can be a sure sign of age, just as much as wrinkles and graying hair.

Tips for Maintaining Younger, Healthier Teeth

Now for the good news: You can actually be proactive in reversing the effects of aging on your teeth and gums. By following a few daily maintenance routines and monitoring your dental health, you can have healthier, younger-looking teeth. These tips can help you get started:

1. Brush and floss at least two times a day. If you’re a senior, this is crucial, because you’re at a higher risk for gum disease. Be sure to brush your gums as well as your teeth, and use a soft toothbrush (it’s more gentle on your enamel).

2. If you do have dentures, be sure to remove and soak them every night in a good cleaning solution — this will help you keep your gums healthy. Also, be sure to visit your dentist regularly so that your dentures can be checked. As gums recede with age, dentures may have to be adjusted.

3. Get regular dental check-ups and cleanings. Studies show that a quarter of seniors (65+) have not seen their dentist within the last five years, and it’s important not to be part of that statistic.

If you’re a senior and you’re retired or on a fixed income, consider purchasing dental insurance. Some companies, such as AARP, specialize in policies geared especially for seniors. In addition, many dentists today provide financing plans that allow you to pay them in monthly installments.

4. If the years have taken some of the shine off of your teeth, consider getting them whitened. While over-the-counter teeth whiteners are popular, they’re not nearly as effective as the teeth whiteners used in dentists’ offices. The best way to get back your bright, sparkling smile is to ask your dentist about in-office teeth whitening procedures, which are quick, painless and long-lasting.

5. Tell your dentist about any medical conditions you have, or medicines you’re taking. These could be affecting your saliva output, which can lead to mouth sores and tooth decay. You and your dentist can discuss ways to mitigate these side effects — ways that typically include oral rinses or lozenges.

A healthy smile is one of the great attributes of youth; but thanks to advances in dentistry, a youthful smile can belong to anyone, no matter what your age might be. By taking care of your teeth and maintaining good oral hygiene, you’ll be able to have the same sparkling smile you had in your youth — and your teeth will never betray your real age.

Contact Us

If you’d like more information on how to maintain your teeth and reverse the effects of aging, be sure to visit Your Dental Health Partners for great tips on preventive and proactive dental care.

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