There are so many things we have to worry about as we age. While busy you're slathering on eye cream for those pesky crow's feet and making appointments to check your blood pressure and cholesterol, make sure you don't forget about your teeth!
Like the rest of our bodies, our teeth change as we age. Your teeth have put in a lot of work over the past several decades and if there's any time to treat them to a little TLC, it's now. In addition to wear and tear, our teeth are also impacted by health conditions and medications we take. Here are 4 tips to protect your teeth as you get older.
1. Stay Hydrated
Who knew staying hydrated could help your teeth too?! It's true. Dry mouth can wreak havoc on our oral health. Without enough saliva to dilute and wash away acid from food and bacteria, teeth are prone to decay. Saliva also carries immune cells and minerals that help protect teeth from cavities. Unfortunately, many of the medications we depend upon to keep us healthy as we age also cause dry mouth.
What can you do for dry mouth? Drinking plenty of water--not juice, soda, tea, or coffee!--is a great start. Don't suck on hard candies to keep your mouth lubricated; instead, bring a water bottle with you wherever you go and if that doesn't seem to help, try an alcohol-free mouth rinse designed for dry mouth.
2. Brush Gently, But Brush Well
Many of our patients think they need to brush their teeth with stiff bristles and lots of pressure to get them really clean. While your teeth might feel nice and smooth after a rough brushing, your gums will suffer. When we age, our gums are likely to start receding and brushing too hard hastens this process.
That said, even though we want you to brush gently, we also want you to brush well. Use a soft-bristled brush and brush for a full 2 minutes, making sure you reach the fronts, backs, and all chewing surfaces of your teeth. An electric toothbrush is helpful and has extensive scientific research backing its effectiveness. The likelihood of periodontitis, or gum disease, increases a great deal as we age and the best way to prevent it is to make sure our teeth are free of plaque and that our gums are in good shape. And don't forget to floss twice a day!
3. Protect Against Oral Cancer
With age comes increased risk of cancer, and that includes oral cancer as well. During dental check-ups, your dentist will do an exam for cancerous sores on the mouth, tongue, and lips. It's also important that you take steps to reduce your risk of oral cancer: drink alcohol in moderation and consider switching to an alcohol-free mouthwash if you use it often. Stop smoking and don't use chewing tobacco. When you're out in the elements, wear a lip balm with SPF.
4. See Your Dentist Regularly
This goes without saying, right? If you're not in the routine of getting two dental exams and cleanings a year, there's no better time to start. Regular dental exams, along with good oral hygiene, can help prevent most of the problems we see in aging mouths. Call Smiles on the Upper Westside at 212-222-5225 to schedule your first appointment. We look forward to caring for your smile!