Aging Well: Take Care of Your Teeth!

We know the importance of taking care of our body as we age: eating well, staying active and seeing the doctor regularly.

It is equally important to take care of our teeth.

As we age, our teeth age, too. All those years of brushing, biting and grinding can wear away tooth enamel and make the gums recede, which makes the teeth more vulnerable to damage and decay.

Saliva production also naturally decreases, and it can decrease even more if an individual is on medications such as antihypertensives, antidepressants, analgesics, tranquilizers, diuretics, or antihistamines. Because saliva is so important in washing away food debris and reducing plaque, dry mouth can increase the risk of cavities. According to the Oral Cancer Foundation, 30 percent of all tooth decay in older adults is caused by dry mouth.

The good news is: If you brush, floss, and visit the dentist regularly for dental cleanings and to take care of any problems, you can avoid some of these diseases that have been linked to poor dental hygiene in older adults.

  • Periodontal disease. More than 10 percent of seniors aged 65 and over have moderate or severe periodontal disease with attachment loss.
  • Pneumonia. Studies have indicated that nursing home and hospitalized seniors with clean teeth had fewer incidences of respiratory tract infections and pneumonia. In addition, a Japanese study found that bacteria associated with an increased risk of dying from pneumonia were more prevalent in elderly with fewer teeth, a higher plaque index and teeth that had experienced more cavities.
  • Heart Disease. While there has been no direct link established between heart disease and poor oral hygiene, research has suggested that periodontitis is associated with an increased risk of developing heart disease and that people with chronic gum disease have increased thickness of their neck blood vessels.
  • Dementia. Researchers discovered bacteria associated with chronic periodontal disease in the brains of people who had Alzheimer’s when they were alive.

As you age, it is important to take even more diligent care of your teeth. Brush twice a day; floss once a day; replace your toothbrush every three months; and schedule regular check-ups with Enlighten Dental Care.

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