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Dental Health and Aging

There is a strong relationship between your dental health and your overall physical health. While medicine and dentistry have operated in separate but parallel spheres for many years, doctors and dentists now recognize a strong link between dental health and overall health. Research offers proof. Older adults with poor health may lose teeth sooner; those with osteoporosis may have bone loss that affects the teeth and jaws. To maintain health at any age, prevention of cavities and prevention of gum disease is important.  

Preventative maintenance helps older adults keep their natural teeth much longer. This important health activity includes:

  • Brushing and flossing real or replacement teeth twice daily
  • Using toothpaste containing fluoride
  • Eating a healthy diet and limiting sweets
  • Avoiding risk factors like alcohol and tobacco
  • Visiting a dentist at least every six months

Cavity prevention

The causes of tooth decay are the same for all ages. Decay happens when the bacteria in plaque feeds on the sugar in our diet.
Many older adults grew up without fluoride in the water, which means they are more likely to have decay around fillings. Decay of the tooth root is also common in older adults because when the gums recede this exposes the root surface which decays easier than harder tooth enamel.

Gum disease prevention
Since gum disease (periodontal disease) often progresses at a slow pace, with no pain, it is very common in older adults. However, gum disease is more than your mouth— there is evidence linking gum disease to heart disease, respiratory disorders and strokes.
Along with preventive maintenance, look for warning signs and see your dentist immediately if you notice any of the following:
  • Bleeding gums while brushing, flossing or eating hard foods
  • Red, swollen or tender gums
  • Gums that are receding or pulling away from the teeth
  • Pus between your teeth and gums when the gums are pressed
  • Loose or separating teeth
  • Any change in the fit of your partial dentures
  • Any change in bite
  • Persistent bad taste or bad breath