There is increased recognition that periodontal (gum) disease is connected to systemic disease. Oral bacteria can affect diabetes, arthritis, and heart disease.
In addition, you’re more likely to develop digestive problems from mild heartburn to gastric reflux or a condition known as gastric esophageal reflux disease. Stomach acids can reach your mouth through the esophagus and erode tooth enamel, which can lead to cavities and other problems. Treatment of gastric reflux can reduce the damaging acidity in the mouth.
“Treating tooth decay in older adults can be complicated by the fact that many already have had significant dental work — fillings, crowns, bridges, etc.,” writes Allen Wong, DDS, EdD. “When a previously restored tooth develops new or recurrent decay, saving it can be more complicated, costly or even impossible. A common mistake most people make is to rely on pain as an indication that a problem exists. This is a very unreliable method.”
Regular dental checkups, daily oral hygiene, and attention to diet all play a role in preventing further damage to teeth and the risk that your tooth can’t be repaired. The fluoride a dentist applies in office, plus the fluoride received in toothpaste, is just as important for older adults as it is for children in preventing tooth decay and helping saliva do its job.
If you wear removable dentures and partial dentures, check them regularly for fit because appliances that press on the soft tissues of your mouth can cause what’s called resorption, or shrinking tissues and bone.
If you're a smoker, you should quit (at any age, really). People who smoke are about twice as likely to lose their teeth as nonsmokers, according to Delta Dental. Studies have found that cigarette smokers are twice as likely to need root canal treatment as well.
April 07, 2020
Janet O’Dell, RN