It used to be incredibly common to lose teeth as we grow older. But thanks to advancements in dental technology, that’s really not the case anymore. According to the American Dental Association (ADA), Americans are keeping their own, natural teeth longer than ever. However, at my Chapel Hill dental office, we know that the longer we keep our teeth, and as we age, the more we need to pay attention to some common oral health issues.
Dry mouth is concerning because it means there’s a lack of adequate saliva in the mouth. Saliva naturally helps neutralize acid and rinse away bacteria. Additionally, it’s packed with calcium and phosphate which aid in keeping teeth strong. Without it, teeth are left exposed to decay. While anyone can suffer from dry mouth, it tends to be more common in older adults. One reason this may be is due to the increased use of medication as we age. Some medications list dry mouth as a side effect, so make sure to discuss all medicines you take with your dentist.
Decay and cavities are pretty common in those over 50. As previously mentioned, this could be a result of dry mouth, but there are other explanations too. As we age, our teeth actually soften, which is bad news for teeth and great news for bacteria. Stronger teeth are harder to attack and as they soften, become easier to attack. Help combat decay by continuing to brush and floss every day.
Every year nearly 45,000 Americans are diagnosed with oral cancer and 8,000 actually die from it. While anyone can be affected by oral cancer, the risk rises as we age. Many people who do have oral cancer are currently smokers or heavy drinkers, or were at some point in their lives. There is a bit of good news though: if caught early, the chance of survival is around 80%.
Gum disease isn’t something to take lightly as it has been directly linked to other whole-body health concerns. In fact, people with gum disease are at double the risk of developing heart disease or diabetes. Of all people 50 and older, 30% have gum disease.
Each one of these dental issues can lead to tooth loss if not caught and treated quickly, so it’s crucial to maintain regular dental checkups with your dentist in Chapel Hill every six months.
If you’re over 50 and don’t have a dentist, we strongly recommend finding one that you trust to evaluate your current dental health and discuss any potential problems you may have. Not sure where to start looking for one? Call my dental office in Chapel Hill and schedule an appointment today. We’ll be happy to see you and get your mouth healthy — for life.
Accepting patients from Chapel Hill, Durham, Pittsboro.