Joint pain, stiff limbs, tiring more easily, forgetfulness – all physical issues related to growing older. In our 40s and 50s, ageing can also exacerbate problems with teeth and gums, so here are some ways to fight back and retain that sparkling smile.
Xerostomia, or dry mouth, can negatively impact dental health. Dr. Mark Fantegrossi, of the Dental Studio, with three offices in London and Ailsa Craig, explains that “A lot of people are on medications (as they age) and these can have a negative affect by drying the mouth.”
Dr. Pennie Thornton, who has had a dental office in Old South for 34 years, adds that salivary gland function often decreases with age and a dry mouth can lead to tooth decay.
Both recommend drinking water, chewing sugarless gum and trying a mouth moisturizing product, like Biotene, all of which can be helpful in combating dry mouth.
Good oral hygiene early in life will prevent many dental issues but if yours hasn’t been stellar there are still ways to combat tooth decay. “Dental hygiene is paramount the older you get.” says Fantegrossi. “At home, you should brush at least twice a day for two minutes each time and floss daily.”
Long in the tooth isn’t just an oftenused phrase to describe older adults; it’s rooted in reality. “With bone loss, because of years of gingivitis and periodontitis, gums start to recede and teeth look longer. Roots are softer than the crown of teeth and without proper care, roots can decay. This is a very hard cycle to break,” Fantegrossi explains.
"Ageing can bring special dental issues"
Spaces between teeth also become bigger, Dr. Thornton recommends using a variety of devices available at drug stores to clean between teeth in addition to flossing. Soft-Picks, interproximal brushes (looks like a very small bottle brush), stimudents, sulcabrushes and rubber-tipped stimulators are all low-cost devices used to clean those widening spaces and keep decay to a minimum.
Thornton says that it is important to use toothpastes that are high in fluoride and fluoride rinses daily or weekly. “Don’t rinse (with water), eat or drink for 30 minutes after,” she adds.
In addition, she says, “See your dentist and hygienist every three to six months for a cleaning, fluoride and oral cancer check.”
The latter, says Dr. Fantegrossi, is a complete visual check of the lips, palate, tongue, oropharynx (back of mouth, leading to throat) for “anything out of the range of normal.”
Farmers or others who have worked outside much of their lives, golfers and other sportsmen, smokers or those who use chewing tobacco are especially vulnerable to cancers on the soft tissues of the mouth, face and throat.
Any abnormality that the dentist observes is referred to a specialist. “We want to catch it early,” says Dr. Fantegrossi.
Armed with knowledge, some small but important tools and the will to observe excellent oral hygiene, you can keep your smile sparkling as the years go by.