7 Reasons You Are Getting More Cavities As You Get Older
Oral Health Changes With Age
As we navigate the chapters of life, transformation graces us like a loyal friend. Our hair acquires the wisdom of silver strands, our skin tells our story with lines of experience, and our bodies grow more seasoned with each passing day. These changes are a celebration of life’s journey. But it’s important to consider our age and how it can impact our overall wellness, including our oral health.
It might surprise you to know that we become more susceptible to cavities the older we get. It’s not just a childhood nuisance either; in fact, tooth decay in older adults is just as prevalent as in adolescents. But fret not! While aging is inevitable, tooth decay is not.
By understanding what spikes the risk of tooth decay, we can ensure our smiles remain radiant and healthy, regardless of the candles on our birthday cake. Let’s explore seven ways our oral health can evolve with age and how we can keep cavities at bay.
1. Dry Mouth
Age-related dry mouth, medically known as xerostomia, is a common oral health issue among older adults. It’s primarily caused by reduced saliva production, which can be a side effect of certain medications, smoking, or underlying health conditions like diabetes and Parkinson’s disease.
Saliva plays a key role in maintaining oral health. It washes away food particles and neutralizes mouth acids, thereby preventing them from damaging the enamel. Consequently, when saliva production decreases, the risk of cavities increases.
The good news is that dry mouth can be managed effectively. It’s important to stay well hydrated, chew sugar-free gum or candies to stimulate saliva flow, and avoid mouth-drying substances like tobacco and alcohol. Regular oral hygiene is crucial, and so are regular dental visits. They can provide suitable treatments or adjustments to your medication if that’s causing the issue.
2. Gum Disease
Gum disease, also known as periodontal disease, becomes increasingly common as we age. The connection between gum disease and aging teeth is due to a variety of factors. Our immune system weakens, making it harder to combat infections, including those that cause gum disease. Additionally, certain systemic diseases like diabetes, which are more prevalent in older adults, can also increase the risk of gum disease.
Treating gum disease is crucial to maintain overall oral health and keep cavities at bay. Early stages of gum disease (gingivitis) can often be reversed with professional cleaning and regular brushing and flossing at home. More advanced cases (periodontitis), however, may require more extensive treatments, such as scaling and root planing, medications, or even dental surgery.
3. Dietary Changes
As we age, our dietary habits often change due to various factors like health conditions, changes in taste, and reduced physical activity. These changes can significantly impact oral health, especially if our diets become rich in sugars and acids, leading to an increased risk of cavities.
High-sugar diets lead to a proliferation of harmful bacteria in the mouth that produce acids. These acids erode the enamel, the tooth’s protective layer, creating a perfect environment for cavities to form. Acidic foods and drinks, like citrus fruits and carbonated beverages, can also contribute to enamel erosion.
To mitigate the risk of cavities, it’s important to consider making thoughtful dietary choices. Limiting the consumption of sugary and acidic foods and drinks and prioritizing a balanced diet rich in fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, and whole grains can contribute to healthier teeth. Calcium-rich foods like milk, cheese, and greens can help strengthen the enamel and lessen the chance of cavities.
4. Limited Mobility
Limited mobility, especially as a result of conditions like arthritis, can pose a significant challenge to maintaining effective oral hygiene. The rigidity and discomfort brought on by arthritis can make the fine motor movements required for thorough brushing and flossing difficult, and this can lead to an increased risk of cavities and gum disease due to inadequately cleaned teeth.
These challenges can be addressed with adaptive tools and techniques. There are a variety of specially designed oral healthcare products available, such as electric toothbrushes with large, easy-to-hold handles or floss holders and interdental cleaners that make flossing less arduous. Additionally, implementing a water flosser can be a game-changer for those with limited hand mobility, as it requires less manual dexterity than traditional flossing.
For individuals with severe mobility restrictions, professional in-home dental care might be a viable solution.
5. Enamel Erosion
The tooth enamel, which is the hard, protective outer layer of the tooth, can gradually wear away over time. This process can be exacerbated by factors common in older age, such as certain medications, acid reflux, and a lifetime of consuming acidic foods and beverages.
The erosion of enamel poses a significant threat to oral health as it exposes the underlying dentin, making teeth more prone to cavities and sensitivity. Moreover, without the enamel’s protective shield, teeth are more susceptible to further damage and decay, which can ultimately lead to tooth loss if left untreated.
Luckily, there are ways to manage and treat enamel erosion. Begin by focusing on preventative measures such as limiting the intake of acidic foods and drinks, thorough daily brushing and flossing, and using fluoride toothpaste, which can help to strengthen the enamel. For those already experiencing erosion, treatments like bonding, crowns, or veneers may be recommended by your dentist to protect the remaining tooth and restore its function.
6. Weakened Immunity
As we age, it’s a natural occurrence for our immune system to weaken, which unfortunately leaves us more susceptible to infections, including those that can affect our oral health. An aging immune system can increase the risk of gum disease, a leading cause of tooth loss, as well as increase the chances of tooth decay.
Maintaining a robust oral hygiene routine can help to keep these problems at bay. Brushing twice daily with fluoride toothpaste, flossing regularly, and using an antibacterial mouthwash can assist in reducing the buildup of plaque and bacteria in the mouth.
Moreover, a balanced diet rich in vitamins and minerals can support the immune system and overall oral health. Regular dental visits are also crucial as they can help to identify and tackle any potential issues early.
7. Low Fluoridation
Fluoride exposure tends to decrease as we age, especially in older adults who may not have access to fluoride-enhanced water or dental care products. Unfortunately, decreased fluoride intake can elevate the risk of cavities.
Fluoride plays a crucial role in preventing tooth decay by making teeth more resistant to acid attacks from plaque bacteria in the mouth. It also aids in remineralizing enamel, helping repair early stages of tooth damage before a cavity can form. Thus, maintaining fluoride exposure as we age is paramount for preserving oral health and preventing cavities. Regular use of fluoride toothpaste, fluoride mouth rinses, and professional fluoride treatments can help older adults mitigate the risk posed by low fluoridation.
Expert Dental Care During All Life’s Chapters
Taking care of your teeth as you age involves more than just brushing and flossing. Being aware of how aging impacts your oral health, understanding the importance of fluoride, and seeking regular dental care are all paramount to maintaining your pearly whites. With the right care, you can keep tooth decay away, and your teeth can remain healthy as you age.
At Tomasik Family Dental, we are here to help you through all the stages of life. We offer expert dental care tailored to the unique needs of our older patients, ensuring your oral health remains excellent throughout the years. Don’t wait until a problem arises. Prevention is always better than a cure. So, why not schedule an appointment with us today? Your future self will thank you for it.