Getting older means your teeth can go through changes just like the rest of your body does. If you’re not proactive about caring for your teeth, you can develop problems like gum disease and even more serious conditions. You definitely need to understand how to keep healthy teeth as you age.
It’s important to keep an eye on your oral health and make sure you maintain healthy habits as you age. Keep in mind that problems with your teeth often don’t just affect your mouth.
If your gums are in bad shape, the bacteria can get in your bloodstream and affect other areas of your body, such as your heart and brain. There’s a direct connection between oral health and overall health that you don’t want to overlook.
The Wear and Tear of Teeth as We Age
Your teeth can handle a lot. They also have a lot of strength, which shows every time you bite into something that’s hard or chewy. Though they’re strong, teeth aren’t indestructible, and this becomes more evident as you age.
By the time some decades have passed, you’ve used your teeth to chew and crunch your way through countless foods. Some bad habits may have been involved, too – such as chewing on ice or chewing on your fingernails.
You may not realize that just chewing on your fingernails can cause you to crack or chip a tooth more easily as you get older. Simply using your teeth causes the enamel to start to thin.
Combine that fact with bad habits and you can lose enamel even faster. You may notice that the edges of your teeth are no longer as ridged as they used to be. Whenever a ridged tooth turns smoother, that’s a sign of wear and tear.
Your teeth aren’t just affected by eating and bad habits, either. The kinds of foods that you eat can play a part in speeding up the wear and tear. For example, the more foods that you eat or beverages you drink that contain natural or manufactured acidic properties, the more damage that’s done to your teeth.
Having a lot of fruit juices or sodas will cause the enamel of the teeth to thin. While it’s common for tooth enamel to get thinner as you age, you don’t want to do things that speed up this process.
If you’re wondering at what age your teeth begin to show the most wear and tear, it begins even in your twenties. Each decade that passes, your gums are going through a receding process.
Because you’re getting older, your body isn’t building bones the way that it used to. You’re losing bone density, and this also affects the teeth. As this stage occurs, thanks to the receding gums, you’ll start to notice that your teeth are shifting.
This is why you see a lot of older people with gaps between their teeth who may not have had that when they were younger. This placement shifting process puts more strain on the enamel because your teeth are no longer situated in the position they were.
Your teeth will now start to grind against one another, damaging both your lower and upper teeth. As you get older and the enamel thins, you’re more susceptible to teeth abrasion.
You can’t brush your teeth with the same strength that you used to in the past because the same exertion with your toothbrush causes wear and tear. You may have to change to a soft toothbrush.
The Cost of Tooth Problems Is About More than Money
No one ever said that taking care of your teeth is cheap. In fact, the cost of dental care often exceeds well beyond what many people can afford to pay. The older generation may be living on a fixed income and taking care of their dental needs may take a backseat to meeting the cost of their living expenses.
Yet, as you age, you need to take care of your teeth even more than you did when you were younger. The cost of getting regular dental cleanings can range from $80 to $130 or more.
It’s recommended that you get these cleanings twice a year. A routine dental exam can cost $200 or more. These exams are a necessity as you age because your dentist can quickly spot any areas of your oral health that may be problematic.
For example, you might have an ulcer that’s slow to heal and that can signify there’s a problem with your overall health. If you need to get a tooth filled because there’s a cavity, this can range in cost from between $240 to $600 or more.
For people who are experiencing more serious problems with their teeth, a root canal may be necessary. This procedure can cost $1,500 or more and that’s before the crown, which is needed in order to protect the tooth.
As you age, you’ll feel this financial pain, especially if you’re on a strict budget. One dental need can derail your monthly expenses and leave you unable to pay for other things you might need.
So what many people do as they age is they tend to ignore the smaller twinges of pain when a tooth hurts. They treat it with over the counter pain relievers and often go for several months before the pain worsens and forces them to go see the dentist.
That’s just one side of the cost of tooth problems. There’s also the physical pain you may have to go through from developing a cavity. Cavities happen more often as you age.
This is something that happens due to the aging process and saliva. Saliva helps keep teeth cleansed of food. But it also contains substances that work to protect your tooth enamel.
With changes in the amount, as well as the make-up of saliva that happens with aging, you get more cavities. The pain from cavities can range from minor to excruciating. If the cavity is deep enough to involve the nerve, then a root canal is needed.
Because this is a more invasive procedure, it involves a longer time at the dentist’s office, more numbing shots, and there’s also the pain you have to endure from the needle.
If the tooth can’t be saved, then there’s the pain of the extraction. If you choose to have an implant done, there’s pain associated with that, too – caused by swelling gums. So there are many pain points to consider when thinking about caring for your teeth.
How Dental Problems Can Affect Your Overall Health
It can be easy to think that any problems with your teeth are isolated to just your mouth area, but it may not be true. Your dental problems can affect your overall health and cause some significant issues for you.
When you have dental problems, bacteria are usually present in abundance. Bacteria can quickly cause an infection that doesn’t remain solely in your mouth. For example, if you have infected gums because of the bacteria, it’s easy for this to then travel from your bloodstream to your heart.
You can get hardened arteries as a direct result of bacteria from the mouth traveling to the heart. This can lead to a deadly heart infection. This isn’t the only part of the body that can be affected by dental problems.
Just like with the heart, the bacteria from the mouth can also travel to the brain. When there, it affects and kills off cells within the brain. If you have dental problems, the bacteria can also get into the lungs by being transported through the bloodstream.
When you have an oral bacteria related lung infection, this can lead to pneumonia. For people who already have a serious physical condition, poor dental health can make that worse.
Those who have diabetes have a compromised immune system. Because of that, whenever there’s a problem with oral health, such as a tooth or gum infection, this can impact overall health and lead to an infection elsewhere in the body.
Many people don’t realize the link between a gum infection and glucose control. In the event of an infection, your glucose levels rise. This happens even in someone who doesn’t have diabetes, but for those who do, it makes managing the disease more difficult.
Your kidneys can also be affected by dental problems. You may not have any issues with your kidney function now, but that can quickly change with an oral infection. People who struggle to keep their teeth healthy are more susceptible to developing kidney infections.
If you have any type of autoimmune disease, then dental problems can affect this condition. That’s because at the foundation of autoimmune disease is inflammation. When you have an infection or inflammation with your teeth or gums, this can cause elevated levels of inflammation all over.
What may surprise you is that having dental problems can interfere with your ability to get pregnant or father a child. That’s because the condition can cause fertility issues in both men and women.
Men can end up with a low number of sperm, decreasing their odds of fathering a child. Women can end up having trouble conceiving because of dental problems. These problems can also cause issues during pregnancy.
Common Care Tips for Protecting Your Teeth as You Grow Older
As you grow older, you’ll want to pay careful attention to your teeth to prevent oral issues from affecting your health. There are some common care tips you’ll want to follow.
The number of times that you need to see the dentist doesn’t change with age. The recommended number of visits per year for preventative care is still two, regardless of age.
When you do visit the dentist, you need to be upfront about any issues you’re having, not just with your teeth or gums, but with your health as well. That’s because if you start a new medication, there’s a possibility that it can affect your teeth and your dentist will know how to guide you so that your teeth remain in good condition.
Another tip is that you need to be on the lookout for plaque. This is when your teeth can be covered in bacteria-laden film. This film might not seem like a big deal at first, but the longer it goes untreated, the more damage it can do.
Not only can it cause cavities, but it can lead to the necessity of having a tooth removed in severe cases if problems develop. Your dentist can spot a plaque buildup and make sure that it’s removed.
You can fight plaque at home by making sure you follow the recommended guidelines for brushing your teeth. Be aware that there are some types of prescription medications that make it easier for plaque to develop.
Other conditions can affect your dental health and there are care tips you can follow to prevent them from causing damage. One of these conditions is dry mouth. As you get older, you may have problems with this.
It’s a condition that can be caused by several factors. One is having high blood pressure. Another is a side effect of some medication. Having diabetes can cause dry mouth.
So can the way you sleep. When you fall asleep, if your mouth is open, that can dry it out. If you’re experiencing dry mouth, you need to hydrate more. You can also use a medication that will cause your body to make more saliva.
There are mouth sprays and saliva substitutes you can get over the counter that can help as well. However, if you’re on medication of any kind, you do need to discuss using these with your doctor or your dentist.
Mouth breathing, teeth grinding, and sleep apnea are other issues that can affect your dental health.
Make sure you have the resources that you need to take care of your teeth. As you age, you can’t continue to use a firm toothbrush. You need a soft one because harder bristles can acerbate problems caused by receding gums.
You need to make sure you choose a toothbrush that can reach all your back teeth. Also, change your toothbrush more often to prevent bacteria buildup in the bristles. You should make sure that when you’re not using it, it’s in the upright position.
You should brush twice a day as you age and floss daily as well. If you can’t floss easily because of age related medical issues, then switch to dental picks.
To protect your teeth, you should also make sure that you’re getting the vitamins and supplements that you need to keep your teeth and gums in good condition.
A Supplement to Help Keep Your Teeth Healthy
There are many supplements on the market, but not all of them can help with tooth health. That’s because most of them don’t focus on helping fight against inflammation.
You need to be sure that you choose a supplement that specifically targets dental health and fights inflammation.
The way it works is by helping you get rid of the bacteria that’s linked to the formation of cavities and inflammation. The ingredients in the supplement also work to make sure that the user’s saliva is properly balanced.
This is important because saliva is antimicrobial in nature and if you don’t have the right amount or balance, then your teeth are at higher risk of developing problems. The supplement is organic, too – which means it’s all natural.
So there are no preservatives or other ingredients that are bad for you. The supplement comes in capsule format and is supposed to be taken daily. It’s made up of 23 different herbs that are known to enhance dental health.
For example, one of these ingredients is berberine. This is a salt that comes from plants. It’s been used to help treat conditions such as diabetes and high blood pressure. It also lowers cholesterol.
The ingredient works to help teeth because it’s both anti-inflammatory as well as being an antioxidant. That means that if you’re someone who struggles with issues such as inflamed gums, berberine can help with that.
Another ingredient contained in the supplement is turmeric. This is something that also works to fight against inflammation. What many people don’t know is that turmeric is already in use in dental practices.
It’s used by dentists to help fight cavities because it’s used to seal teeth. It’s also used as a natural mouthwash. Over the counter mouthwash can actually cause cavities to develop because they can lead to dry mouth.
But turmeric doesn’t cause that. The supplement also contains ginger. Just like turmeric, it’s loaded with anti-inflammatory properties. That means it fights against gum disease.
Be sure you get enough vitamin D3 and K2 in your diet. In fact, taking them together is best to aid in absorption. K2 is a critical nutrient for dental health and helps calcium get into your bones. It also slows tooth deterioration and builds the tissue around the teeth.
Some foods that have K2 include organ meats, egg yolks, and cheddar cheese.
Be proactive about taking care of your teeth as you age to avoid having to deal with more health problems. You have to be vigilant about the care of your teeth and gums, make sure you’re visiting the dentist twice a year for a checkup, and supplement those efforts with other oral practices that strengthen your health and protect your teeth.