Aging takes its toll on the whole body, and your teeth and gums are no exception. In fact, some of the effects of aging on the teeth have a direct effect on the overall health of the body. For example, the bacteria from the gum disease gingivitis has been directly linked to heart disease. The effects of aging go beyond gum disease, however, and also include:
· Cracks and chips in the enamel from wear and tear;
· Acid erosion from eating starchy, sugary, and acidic foods;
· Staining from smoking, foods like berries, and beverages like coffee and red wine; and,
· Dry mouth from reduced saliva production caused by aging or by medications.
Cracks, chips, acid erosion can all contribute to tooth decay by weakening the enamel and making it more vulnerable to damage from the bacteria that normally resides in the mouth. Reduced saliva production can also contribute to tooth decay because normal saliva levels are necessary for diluting the normal levels of bacteria in the mouth, and for washing bacteria and debris from the surface of the teeth. Tooth decay, along with gingivitis, is one of the major causes of tooth loss in adults.
Tooth loss is a major problem because it not only prevents you from chewing properly, it can also lead to bone loss in the jaw.
Fortunately, there are ways to reduce the effects of aging on your teeth and gums. There are also ways to combat the effects of tooth loss.
Combating the Effects of Tooth Loss
There are several prosthetic options for replacing lost teeth, with dentures being the most common and cost effective. However, dentures do not stimulate bone growth in the tooth socket. As a result, people with dentures often experience bone loss in the jaw, which can lead to ill-fitting dentures and other problems.
Dental implants, specifically all-on-four implants, can actually prevent bone loss. With the all-on-four implant, a posts are screwed into the strongest part of the jaw and a row of teeth is attached to the posts. Because the post is in the jaw, the act of using the teeth stimulates the growth of bone material, just like natural teeth. There are several dentists across the country that perform the all-on-four procedure. Although the procedure is more expensive than traditional dentures, it also presents the least risk of bone loss. Less bone less means a healthier mouth, and better-fitting prosthetics. It also makes for a better cosmetic appearance.
Reducing the Effects of Aging and Preventing Future Loss
The best way to reduce the effects of aging on your teeth and gums is with regular dental hygiene and professional dental care.
· Have dental checkups and professional cleaning twice a year (every six months). At least once a year, have bitewing X-rays done to detect possible decay and other issues below the gum line.
· Take care of any dental problems as they arise. Delaying treatment can cause more damage to the teeth and gums, and could result in tooth loss.
· Brush your teeth at least twice a day, but nor more than three times a day, with a fluoride toothpaste. Not brushing enough will allow bacteria to build up on your teeth, however brushing too often can wear at the enamel.
· Use a soft toothbrush. Medium and hard toothbrushes can erode the enamel on your teeth.
· Brush at the gum line to stimulate the gums and keep them healthy. Brushing at the gum line can also remove the tartar and plaque that can contribute to gum disease.
· Rinse with a medicated mouthwash to help remove bacteria and tartar. If you have dry mouth, use an alcohol-free mouthwash.
· Suck on sugar-free candy or chew sugar-free gum to encourage healthy saliva levels.
· Avoid eating starchy, sugary foods, or rinse your mouth with a medicated mouthwash shortly after eating them.
· Floss each time that you brush.