Getting older? Why your Teeth and Gums are Important for Good

Getting older? Why your Teeth and Gums are Important for Good
Getting older? Why your Teeth and
Gums are Important for Good Health
Keeping our teeth into old age is an
advantage because it makes it easier to
chew fresh fruit and vegetables - foods which
contain important nutrients and fiber that help
prevent many diseases. When older people
who have difficulty chewing eat only soft,
processed foods, their health may suffer as a
result. Like the rest of the body, the mouth
changes with age - but understanding these
changes makes it easier to maintain a
healthy mouth and teeth.
Why does my mouth feel dry?
Although this is partly because we produce
less saliva as we age, a dry mouth is often a
side effect of medication - your doctor or
pharmacist can tell you if your medication
may be a cause. If your mouth feels dry, do
something about it – your mouth needs saliva
to wash away food debris and help prevent
tooth decay. A dentist or pharmacist can
recommend an oral moisturizing gel.
Mouthwashes can help keep the mouth moist
too, and sugarless chewing gum can
stimulate more saliva. It’s also good (for
general health as well as your mouth) to drink
plenty of water each day even if you don’t
feel thirsty.
Is tooth decay a problem with age?
Aging can contribute to decay for two
reasons. One is that gums tend to recede,
exposing the roots of teeth to plaque - the
sticky substance that forms on teeth and
causes decay. These roots are more
vulnerable to decay than the rest of the tooth.
Another problem is that fillings in teeth
weaken with time, allowing bacteria to creep
in and cause decay.
How can I prevent problems with teeth
and gums?
By brushing teeth carefully twice a day, using
fluoride toothpaste to help prevent decay.
Clean the back surfaces of the teeth as well
as the front, and clean between the teeth with
dental tape or floss. If you have a bridge in
your mouth (a device which attaches artificial
teeth to natural teeth), clean and floss the
natural teeth supporting the bridge very
carefully. You can also protect teeth by
avoiding sugary snacks and sweet soft drinks
between meals. If you like sweet drinks and
foods, have them at meal times only between meals, drink water and eat healthy
snacks which aren’t sugary or sticky.
When should I see a
Don’t wait for things to go
wrong - see a dentist for
regular check ups. It
makes it easier to spot
early signs of tooth decay,
as well as gum disease
which can lead to tooth
loss. See a dentist if you
have symptoms of gum disease such as
bleeding or inflamed gums, persistent bad
breath or a change in the appearance of the
gums. Because oral cancer is more common
in people over 45, see a doctor or dentist
about any persistent mouth ulcers or lumps.
What if I have dentures?
Caring for dentures is as important as caring
for natural teeth. Clean all denture surfaces
daily - you can use dishwashing soaps or
detergents applied with a brush. Store
dentures in water when you’re not using them
- add antibacterial denture tablets to the
water if you like, but they’re no substitute for
daily cleaning. Don’t put up with any
discomfort with dentures - always have them
Text by the New South Wales Multicultural Health Communication
Services ( Software by Healthway
Software ©2002
This work is licensed under the Creative
Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs License
A Healthy Roads Media project
Getting Older? Why Teeth and Gums are Important for Good Health –
English (Last reviewed 2/2008)
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