Your teeth are meant to last a lifetime. So, taking care of your teeth and mouth are extremely important. Having healthy teeth and gums allow you to eat more of the foods you want while creating a big healthy smile. Having a healthy smile gives you the confidence to laugh and communicate, more effectively, with others. Dr. Sara is dedicated to helping you care for your teeth as you age. These are just a few of the topics that will begin to concern you and your oral health as you get older.
Tooth Decay (Cavities)
Teeth are meant to last a lifetime. By taking good care of your teeth and gums, you can protect them for years to come. Tooth decay is not just a problem for children. It’s a problem for adults as well.
Decay ruins the enamel that covers and protects your teeth. When you don’t take good care of your mouth, bacteria can cling to your teeth and form a sticky, colorless film called plaque. Plaque can lead to tooth decay and cavities. Gum disease can also cause your teeth to decay.
Using a fluoride toothpaste and mouth rinse can help protect your teeth. If you have a problem with cavities, Dr. Sara may also give you a fluoride treatment during your office visit. Depending on the severity of your case, Dr. Sara may also prescribe a fluoride gel or mouth rinse for home use.
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Gum diseases (sometimes called periodontal or gingival diseases) are infections that harm the gum and bone that hold teeth in place. When plaque stays on your teeth too long, it forms a hard, harmful covering, called tartar. Brushing alone does not eliminate this substance. The longer plaque and tartar stay on your teeth, the more damage these elements cause. Your gums may become red, swollen and bleed easily. This is called gingivitis.
If gingivitis is not treated, over time it can cause your gums to pull away from your teeth and form pockets that could get infected. This is called periodontitis. If not treated, this infection can ruin the bones, gums and tissue that support your teeth. Eventually, these may need to be removed. Click here for more information on gum disease.
Here’s how you can prevent gum disease:
- Brush your teeth twice a day (with a fluoride toothpaste)
- Floss once a day
- Make regular visits to see Dr. Sara and her team for a checkup and cleaning
- Eat a well-balanced diet
- Don’t use tobacco products
- Clean your teeth and gums
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Brushing & Flossing
Knowing how to brush and floss the right way is a big part of good oral health. Gently brush your teeth on all sides with a soft-bristle brush and fluoride toothpaste every day. Small round motions and short back-and-forth strokes work best. Take the time to brush carefully and gently along the gum line. Lightly brush your tongue as well.
Along with brushing, clean around your teeth with dental floss to keep your gums healthy. Careful flossing will remove plaque and leftover food that a toothbrush can’t reach. Rinse your mouth after you floss.
If brushing or flossing causes your gums to bleed or hurt your mouth, see your dentist. Your dentist may prescribe a bacteria-fighting mouth rinse to help control plaque and swollen gums. Use the mouth rinse in addition to careful daily brushing and flossing.
Patients with arthritis or other conditions that limit motion may find it difficult to hold a toothbrush. Attaching the toothbrush handle to your hand with a wide elastic band may be helpful. Some people make the handle bigger by taping it to a sponge or Styrofoam ball. Patients with limited shoulder movement may find brushing easier if they attach a long piece of wood or plastic to the handle. Electric toothbrushes can also be useful. Click here for more on brushing and flossing.
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Dentures (sometimes called false teeth) may feel strange at first. When you are learning to eat with them, it may be easier if you:
- Start with soft non-sticky food
- Cut your food into small pieces
- Chew slowly using both sides of your mouth
Dentures may make your mouth less sensitive to hot foods and liquids. They also may make it harder for you to notice harmful objects such as bones, so be careful. During the first few weeks of wear, your dentist may want to see you often to make sure the dentures fit. Over time, your mouth changes and your dentures may need to be replaced or adjusted. Be sure to let your dentist handle these adjustments.
Keep your dentures clean and free from food that can cause stains, bad breath, or swollen gums. Once a day, brush all surfaces with a denture care product. When you go to sleep, be sure to remove your dentures and put them in water or a denture cleansing liquid.
Take care of partial dentures the same way. Bacteria can collect under the clasps (clips) that hold partial dentures, so be sure to carefully clean that area.
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Dental implants are small metal pieces placed in the jaw to hold false teeth or partial dentures in place. They are not for everyone. You need a complete dental and medical checkup to find out if implants are right for you. Your gums must be healthy and your jawbone may be able to support the implants. Talk to Dr. Sara to find out if you should consider implants. Click here for more on dental implants.
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Doctors used to think that dry mouth (xerostomia) was a normal part of aging. They now know that’s not true. Older, healthy adults shouldn’t have a problem with saliva.
Dry mouth happens when salivary glands don’t work properly. This can make it hard to eat, swallow, taste, and even speak. Dry mouth can also increase the risk of tooth decay and infection. You can get dry mouth from many diseases or medical treatments, such as head and neck radiation therapy. Many common medicines also can cause dry mouth.
If you think you have dry mouth, talk with your dentist or doctor. If your dry mouth is caused by a prescribed medicine, your doctor might change your medicine or dosage.
To prevent dryness, drink extra water. Cut back on sugary snacks, drinks containing caffeine or alcohol, and tobacco. Some patients benefit from sucking hard candy.
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Oral cancer most often occurs in people over age 40. It’s important to catch oral cancer early, because treatment works best before the disease has spread. Pain is often not an early symptom of the disease.
A dental check-up is a good time for your dentist to look for early signs of oral cancer. Even if you have lost all your natural teeth, you should still see your dentist for regular oral cancer exams. See your dentist or doctor if you have trouble with swelling, numbness, sores or lumps in your mouth, or if it becomes hard for you to chew, swallow, or move your jaw or tongue. These problems could be signs of oral cancer.
You can lower the risk of getting oral cancer by not smoking and chewing tobacco. Drink alcohol in moderation. Use lip cream with sunscreen and eat lots of fruits and vegetables.
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