Did you know that growing older doesn’t mean you have to eventually lose your teeth? Patients over 55 often see oral health changes as they age. However, there are ways to combat thinning enamel and tooth loss. Dentures, partials and implants can definitely restore your smile if you have lost teeth. However, find out how you can actually keep all your natural teeth and avoid tooth loss all your life!
How Common Is Decay and Tooth Loss?
According to the National Institutes of Health, tooth decay is the “most prevalent chronic disease” in both children and adults. Tooth decay—which you know by the term “cavities”—is a preventable disease that could happen to literally anyone with teeth. Other diseases don’t always run in a family line or the majority of the population isn’t susceptible to them. With tooth decay, they are, and if that decay is not corrected early-on, it can lead to tooth loss.
Let’s take a look at some of the facts:
- Gum disease affects more than 64.7 million Americans, which only factors in adults with this disease. It’s caused by the same plaque that causes your cavities to form. There are more people that have tooth decay than gum disease, but the actual number in the millions is not known.
- By adulthood, more than 92% of people have had cavities at least once, if not many times.
- Untreated cavities grow larger, causing internal tooth infection, gum disease (with receding gums) and tooth loss.
- More than 120 million Americans have lost at least one permanent tooth, most of the time due to decay.
- A healthy adult mouth has 32 natural teeth. However, the average adult only has 25 teeth or less.
- More than 36 million Americans have no natural teeth left in their mouth.
Changes to Your Teeth with Age
Your teeth can easily decay as they age because they come in contact with so many sugars, acids and more over the years. This happens on a daily basis. Plaque is made when your mouth bacteria mixes with sugars in the foods and drinks you ingest. That plaque sticks to your teeth, and the acids in it break up the minerals (demineralize) in your teeth, decaying them. Decay spreads from there. Over time, you will see your teeth start to change from white to gray to black as decay sets in. This can happen all over.
Acids in foods and drinks can also make your teeth thinner, especially with age. Thinning teeth are teeth that have a thinner tooth enamel (outer) layer of minerals, which can then start to show the inner layer more. That is why thin teeth may appear more yellow or gray. There is also a natural shifting of teeth with age as the mouth becomes narrower, which can cause the teeth to become crooked. This makes them harder to clean, which also leads to decay. You can have tooth erosion, thinning, color changes, crookedness and decay to your natural teeth as you age if you don’t take steps to keep them healthy.
How Do You Keep Your Teeth Healthy?
There are basics for oral care that you hear constantly from dentists, and it’s for a reason. Brushing and flossing your teeth won’t only help them stay clean, but they will help you keep your natural teeth for life instead of experiencing tooth loss with age. The American Dental Association recommends oral hygiene care such as:
- Brushing your teeth every single day, at least 2 times a day (or after every meal), for at least 2 minutes at a time. Brush with fluoride toothpaste.
- Use fluoride products (like the toothpaste). Fluoride comes in gels and foams and is a mineral that will help prevent demineralization of the teeth and tooth decay.
- Floss 1-2 times a day, making sure to use new floss each time. Floss up into your gum line between all the teeth and scrape your teeth as you go to remove extra plaque.
- Use mouthwash with fluoride to both strengthen your teeth and to kill decay-causing bacteria that will produce plaque.
- Visit the dentist at least twice a year for dental cleanings, comprehensive exams and oral cancer screenings.
These types of oral care habits will keep your natural teeth healthy for many more years than skipping them. You can even keep your natural teeth without tooth loss into old age.
Keeping Your Natural Teeth for Life
It can be much easier to keep your natural teeth for life if you have the right habits. Part of those habits include actions that prevent erosion, decay and plaque buildup in the first place. Those include:
- Skipping foods that are acidic in nature. The focus should be on avoiding citrus fruits and any type of food with acids in them or added citric acid.
- Avoiding drinks that are acidic. Anything carbonated (including water) is acidic for your teeth and will strip them of minerals, weakening them to be harmed easier by decay. Avoid carbonated drinks, citrus drinks (that contain citric acid) and sugary drinks, which lead to high plaque production.
- Manage a healthy diet with reduced or little sugar in it. The more sugar you eat, the more plaque your mouth makes and the more your teeth can decay.
- No skipping on your oral hygiene routine. Plan ahead if you have work or a busy schedule. Take a brushing and flossing kit with you in your bag if you need to.
Even though tooth decay and tooth loss is fairly common, it doesn’t mean that it has to be common with you. You can avoid oral health diseases and keep your natural teeth for life if you avoid substances that hurt your teeth. Follow an oral hygiene routine every single day and visit the dentist. If you need to schedule your dental cleaning and exam, call Dr. Evanson’s office today at (720) 409-0008!
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