Older Americans are keeping their teeth longer than ever before, with the average number of teeth people retain into old age increasing each year. The longer you keep your teeth, the more likely you are to encounter dental problems. Understanding and addressing the following dental issues in a timely fashion is key for maintaining good oral health.
Tooth decay As people age, their gums start to recede, leaving tooth roots exposed and more likely to develop cavities either around old fillings or at the root of the tooth. Keeping twice yearly dental appointments ensures your dentist will spot cavities before infection occurs or a tooth breaks off.
Gum disease Red, swollen, or bleeding gums may indicate gingivitis. When left untreated, gingivitis often develops into periodontitis. Once you've developed gingivitis, you may need to visit your dentist more often to treat your gums for the condition.
Dry mouth The older a person gets the more medications they take, which may lead to dry mouth. A lack of saliva leaves an individual more vulnerable to tooth decay. Sipping water throughout the day and chewing sugar-free gum helps promote saliva production.
Tooth crowding Teeth often shift over time, making them more difficult to clean, which increases the risk of tooth decay. Misaligned teeth may also contribute to tooth erosion and damage to the supporting bone and tissue. Talk to your dentist about a solution for significant tooth crowding, such as more frequent cleanings or an orthodontic device.
Oral cancer The risk of oral cancer increases with age. Typically, it's linked to heavy alcohol use, smoking and in some instances, Human Papillomavirus (HPV). A dentist will screen for oral cancer during a routine dental checkup by holding up the patient's tongue and examining the soft tissue in the mouth, throat, and jaw.