Many of us remember seeing our grandma's bedside glass where she kept her teeth. While our parents assured us that this was due to lack of dentists 'back in the day,' oral health care specialists know that years of wear and tear as well as growing older can have dire effects for your teeth and gums, including bad breath, cavities and tooth discoloration, regardless of how well you take care of your teeth.
"Extensive research has shown us that oral health is inextricably tied to overall health, making it even more important for older adults to maintain a healthy mouth," said Beth Truett, OHA President and CEO.
If you're heading into your golden years, there a few things to look out for in particular:
Even if you make a point to avoid bad breath foods such as garlic-filled pasta or heavy beer, the lack of saliva that's produced as you age causes chronic dry mouth and bad breath to strike.
In addition to the reduction in saliva due to less active salivary glands, a drier mouth may also be due to side effects of cancer treatments or medication.
No matter how well you brush, your teeth will likely have some discoloration over time. As we age, the pulp chamber in our teeth shrink, causing the dentin to become thicker to make up the difference, so to speak. Dentin is yellow in color, and as this portion of the tooth increases, our teeth will begin to look less white. Teeth also become discolored when food particles are left in the mouth, which are the perfect meal for bacteria that live in the mouth.
To keep your pearly whites as white as possible, it's important to maintain your tooth's enamel. Using an alcohol-free mouthwash can help you maintain your current enamel as well as help clean the hard-to-reach recesses of your mouth.
As part of aging, the mouth and teeth begin to wear down. After years of chomping and gnashing, our enamel weakens, which can leave room for cavities. For instance, after eating starchy and sugary food, the carbohydrates ferment and leave bacteria in the mouth that produce acids. These acids erode the tooth, and can cause pits where tooth decay develops. In order to avoid this problem, it is recommended that you brush at least twice a day, visit a dentist regularly and keep good flossing habits.