Word on the street is you’ll keep your teeth longer as you enter old age, but with this good news comes an alarming warning that there are more problems likely to arise with your chompers and so you need to maintain those visits to your dentist.
In your 60s there are five common dental issues you’re bound to face and fortunately the remedies are pretty straight forward.
1. Tooth decay
Even if you’re in your 60s you can get cavities. You’ll get them on the surface of your teeth, which might not have been a problem before, and you can also get them around old fillings and at the root of your teeth.
Here’s the fix — fluoride. It’s not just for kids. Dental health has improved since water fluoridation began in the 1950s, however if you don’t have fluorinated water you should add a daily rinse to your brushing habit according to United States spokesperson on elder care for the American Dental Association Judith Ann Jones.
2. Dry mouth
If you don’t produce enough saliva your teth could be at risk. There is calcium and phosphate present in saliva and this prevents demineralisation of your teeth. You’ll know if you have dry mouth because you’ll have a sticky feeling in your mouth, you have trouble swallowing, you might have a dry throat and you could have dry, cracked lips. You might even notice a metallic taste in your mouth or you could have persistent bad breath.
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Often the condition is caused by medication, and as you get older chances are you’ll be taking more medication. But dry mouth can also be a result of smoking or a blow to the head that has had an impact on your salivary glands.
Here’s the fix — sip water all day or chew a sugar-free gum to help stimulate saliva production. Your dentist might also prescribe you with a saliva substitute for you to try.
3. Gum disease
If you have swollen, red or bleeding gums you could have a condition called ‘gingivitis’, which is an early form of gum disease. If you don’t do anything about it the condition can be dangerous; you could develop a disease called ‘periodontitis’ and this is where your gum pulls away from the tooth and creates a pocket that can become infected. Worse, if you don’t take action you could lose teeth or bones in your jaw.
Here’s the fix — see your dentist regularly. Your dentist will check and treat the condition and give your teeth a good clean in the process.
4. Oral cancer
Oral cancer represents between 3 and 4 per cent of all cancers diagnosed in Australia each year. Your chances of developing this cancer increases as you get older and is most often linked to smoking or alcohol use.
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Here’s the fix — Ensure your dentist does an oral cancer exam when you visit as your best chance of survival is if the disease is detected early. The test involves checking the soft tissue in your mouth as well as your throat and jaw. If they don’t do the test, request it or consider switching to a dentist that does. It could save your life!
5. Tooth crowding
As you get older your teeth move around and this creates an opportunity for them to overlap one another. The reason this is problematic is not just because you’ll look different when you smile, but because it makes home maintenance on your teeth all the more difficult. When your teeth are misaligned you can develop teeth erosion or you can damage the supporting tissue and bone, and when you add this to your risk of periodontal disease you also risk losing your teeth at a faster rate.
Here’s the fix — Talk to your dentist about the shifts and see if they will refer you to an orthodontist. You might need braces or a retainer or even a spacer. Don’t think that because you’re in your 60s that you’re too old for such action either.
Do you see your dentist regularly? When was your last visit? What issues with your teeth do you worry about?