Article written by: Marney Mahon

Eating, smiling and talking – your natural teeth are best for doing such things, but they need special care to keep them for life.

As we become older, we face rapid changes. We may retire, move into smaller homes and experience differences in our health and mobility. Dental problems can also occur with ageing, so aiming to keep out teeth and gums healthy is vital so we can eat, smile and talk without discomfort. Of course, our nutrition and overall health is affected by our ability to eat healthy and varied food.

For many years you may have had very little trouble with your teeth apart from the occasional replacement fillings that have broken down. There may have been no new decay problems and your mouth might have been in a balanced state. Now your dentist has told you that you have active decay in your mouth and it has become quite serious. So…. What’s changing?

Well, perhaps you’ve had substantial changes to your meals and what you eat between meals, without being aware of any differences in your eating habits. This can easily occur if you find you have more free time – for example, if you play bridge or lawn bowls or enjoy arts and crafts. Perhaps your enjoyment of food has changed; things taste different or you have developed a ‘sweet tooth’. Many of us turn to food when we are worried, less busy or just purely bored.

As we age, we often slow down, our bones become brittle, and breaks or fractures can take longer to heal. Older teeth may also become brittle and need extra special care to keep them free from decay. They may often have large silver fillings that are worn down or have the roots of the tooth surfaces exposed.

Also a lack of saliva flow can result in a dry mouth. Saliva is our body’s natural defence against tooth decay and helps to neutralize the acids and replenish the minerals in our teeth. If you lack adequate saliva flow, your teeth can decay and wear away more easily. Smoking, caffeine, some medicines, and specific illnesses that affect salivary glands may reduce your saliva flow.

Special problems of older teeth can include:

  • Root decay, or being ‘long in the tooth’
  • Older silver fillings breaking down
  • Dry mouth
  • Gastric reflux, and
  • Brushing problems due to the loss of dexterity with your hands.

Your dental professional understands lifestyle changes can trigger changes in diet or brushing habits, and sometimes your dental health may seem less of a priority. He or she can advise and assist you in making the necessary alterations to help strengthen your teeth and further prevent decay from occurring.

Tips to remember:
  • Always use a fluoride toothpaste
  • Avoid sweet and sticky snacks
  • Limit your sugar frequency
  • Drink plenty of water
  • Avoid tobacco products and excessive alcohol consumption, and
  • Visit your dentist and dental hygienist at regular intervals.
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