|Posted on November 3, 2015 at 7:10 AM|
One of the keys to keeping teeth for a lifetime is to visit a dentist regularly. But many older people don't.
Many older people grew up during a time when preventive dental care was not emphasized. Some may not realize how important it is. They may believe that toothaches, bleeding gums, loose teeth or mouth pain are just part of getting older. In fact, these can be signs of gum disease, or other problems.
Regular dental checkups and professional cleanings are important. During an exam, your dentist checks for tooth decay, gum disease and oral cancer.
A lack of dental visits can result in untreated tooth decay and gum disease. Both of these can lead to lost teeth. Missing teeth, toothache or mouth pain also can change how and what you eat. This means you may not get the nutrients you need to stay healthy.
Visiting the dentist is especially important for older people because they may have other medical conditions. These conditions can create dental problems. Hundreds of medicines can cause side effects in your mouth. Some of these, such as dry mouth, can increase the risk of tooth decay or other oral health problems.
Saliva is a natural cavity-fighter. It neutralizes acids produced by bacteria that can cause tooth decay. Saliva helps wash away food and bacteria. It also contains minerals that strengthen teeth. Dry mouth reduces saliva. This makes you more vulnerable to cavities. Dentists can treat dry mouth. They also can prescribe fluoride rinses or gels to help keep teeth strong.
Older people are more likely to get cavities for other reasons, too. Receding gums can allow acids to get to the roots of teeth and cause cavities. Older fillings can break down. This leaves teeth susceptible to decay.