More than 43,000 Americans will be diagnosed with oral cancers this year, and more than 8,000 will die from it, according to The Oral Cancer Foundation. Oral cancer incidence definitely increases as you get older, says Judith Ann Jones, DDS, director of The Center for Clinical Research at the Boston University Goldman School of Dental Medicine. It’s often linked to smoking and heavy alcohol use.
Only about half of people who develop oral cancer survive the disease, Jones says. The number of cases has risen because researchers have discovered the human papilloma virus also can cause oral cancer. Your dental exam should always include a check for oral cancer.
Another problem is tooth crowding because teeth shift as you age, according to Lee W. Graber, DDS, past president of the American Association of Orthodontists.
Tooth crowing can make your teeth more difficult to clean, leading to more decay. Misaligned teeth can also contribute to tooth enamel erosion and damage the supporting tissue and bone, Graber says. If you have periodontal disease, you could lose your teeth even quicker.
If arthritis or a lack of mobility keeps you from cleaning your mouth properly, there are many adaptions that can be used to improve your grip, for example. Remember cavities, periodontal disease, and tooth loss are not givens as you age. A daily regimen of oral hygiene plus regular checkups with your dentist can keep you smiling for a lifetime.
April 07, 2020
Janet O’Dell, RN