Oral hygiene - what changes as we get older?

Oral hygiene - what changes as we get older?

Throughout our life, there’s one basic routine which we all need to maintain as part of a healthy lifestyle – a good oral hygiene routine! Your teeth can last a lifetime with proper home care and regular dental check-ups.  However, the natural aging process does take its toll on your teeth and there are a number of issues in your senior years which can impact on your oral health.

After years of eating, drinking and enjoying life, it’s no surprise that one of the biggest problems we face is previous dental work deteriorating - fillings don't last for ever and may need repairing or replacing from time to time. Other common problems are cavities and decay on the root surface of your teeth.  So, it’s really important to brush with high fluoride toothpaste, floss daily and visit your dentist regularly.

Sensitivity is another common issue as your gums recede over time, exposing areas of your teeth that are not protected by enamel. We’ve all tossed back a nice, cold glass of water only to grimace at that sharp, tingling sensation in our teeth. If you experience this regularly, it’s best to start off with trying sensitive toothpaste, and if the problem persists, visit your nearest mydentist practice as the issue could be the result of a more serious condition such as a cavity or cracked tooth.

The dreaded dry mouth

Saliva plays an import role in keeping your mouth healthy, it protects teeth from decay, helps heal sores in your mouth, and prevents infection by controlling bacteria, viruses, and fungi. As we get older many of us start to suffer from a dry mouth, and left untreated, it can lead to oral thrush, tooth decay and gum disease.

Dry mouth can be caused be many factors, often dehydration, but it can also be caused by an underlying problem or medical condition. Over 400 medications can cause a dry mouth, including antihistamines, anti-depressants and diuretics - so always check the leaflet which comes with your medicine. Other common causes of dry mouth include a blocked nose, diabetes, radiotherapy and Sjögren's syndrome. 

There are preventative measures however; chewing sugar free gum is a great way to prevent dry mouth. You can also get artificial saliva products that resemble naturally-produced saliva and are available as sprays, swabs and solutions in a variety of flavours. If you suffer from dry mouth, there a few items you should avoid including:

  • Spicy or salty foods
  • Drinks with caffeine, such as coffee, tea and some sodas.
  • Tobacco and alcohol

Dementia can play a big part in someone’s oral hygiene, therefore it’s important to establish a dental care programme at, or soon after diagnosis. Establishing a dental care programme should help to reduce the risk of developing poor oral and dental health. The Alzheimer’s society offers excellent guidance factsheets explaining the dental problems that people with dementia may face at different stages, and methods for treatment and prevention.

Dental ‘speak’ – what does it all mean?

While it’s a dentist’s job to explain the choice of treatments available to you, sometimes it’s hard to know your veneer from your bridge, so we’ve explained some of the common treatments for you:

Crowns

Crowns are used to strengthen damaged teeth or replace missing tooth structure. It’s used to entirely cover or cap a damaged tooth. A crown not only strengthens a damaged tooth but it can improve the appearance, shape or alignment.

Bridges

Bridges are used to strengthen damaged teeth or replace missing ones. They are commonly used to replace one or more missing teeth as they span the space where the teeth are missing. Bridges are cemented to the natural teeth or implants surrounding the empty space.

Dentures

Dentures are removable false teeth made of acrylic (plastic), nylon or metal. They fit snugly over the gums to replace missing teeth and eliminate potential problems caused by gaps. Depending on the amount of teeth missing you can have either a complete denture, replacing a full row of teeth, or a partial denture replacing just one or a few teeth.

Implants

A dental implant is a titanium screw placed in the jawbone to support one or more false teeth. An implant can be used to replace one single tooth, right through to a complete set. You need to have a healthy amount of bone in your jaw to be suitable for implants, so a number of tests beforehand are required.

All of these treatments require special care and treatment as they are replacements to your teeth in essence, so it’s important to look after them just as much!

Visit our practice locator page to find your nearest mydentist practice.

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