When’s the last time you went to the dentist? And we don’t mean scheduling and taking your children to the dentist – when’s the last time you had a routine dental check-up? For many adults, a couple of answers might come to mind: it could be over a year ago, they might not remember, or they just haven’t had time to take off work and schedule an appointment.
While family, work, and life are a juggling act as an adult, prioritizing your oral healthcare doesn’t have to be a hassle! As we age, our oral health needs change and our teeth become more vulnerable to damage – tooth-related health issues affect older adults at higher rates.
In fact, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, bout 2 in 3 (68%) of adults aged 65 years or older have gum disease. Nearly 1 in 5 adults aged 65 years or older have lost all of their teeth. These outcomes are not necessarily your future, however. There’s plenty we can do to protect ourselves and our smiles!
With proper maintenance and healthcare, your teeth should last you a lifetime! Our dental needs certainly change as we age, and as adults, we need to stay on top of our overall health – oral health included! Your team at South Charlotte Dentistry has the scoop on some of the best dental practices and tools adults can use to best protect their pearly whites, and discuss some of the main ailments that affect adults.
How many appointments do adults need each year?
According to a study from the American Dental Association in 2014, 51.2% of adults reported they visited the dentist every six months during the last few years, 15.4% reported once per year, and 11% reported once every two to three years. That leaves more than one in five or 21.3% who reported they had not visited the dentist in the last few years.
While a good rule of thumb is that those adults receive at least two dental cleanings per year, that may not be the best advice for everyone. Typically, the twice per year recommendation stems from insurance coverage of one to two dental cleanings covered per year. But the truth is, your oral healthcare needs may depend more on your unique oral hygiene, habits, and medical conditions. Next time you’re at the dentist, you should always remember to ask when to schedule your next appointment!
Who should go to the dentist more often?
People who are at a greater risk of dental disease or have other health conditions may need to see the dentist every three months or more. This group includes:
· Pregnant women
· People with gum disease
· People with a weak immune response
· People who are prone to cavities or plaque build-up
How do teeth change with age?
It’s normal to witness some changes to your teeth as you age. Though some are natural with time, other changes can cause discomfort and dental complications.
One of the most common ways that teeth change with age involves sensitivity. As we age, the nerves in our teeth shrink, making them less sensitive to things like temperature or pain from cavities. Our gums also tend to recede as we age, which on the flip side, can increase our sensitivity as
the soft root tissues of our teeth become exposed.
If teeth and gums are not kept up with daily maintenance and annual dental appointments, a lifetime of wear and buildup will leave your teeth and oral health vulnerable to a number of problems.
How does aging affect oral care and what problems should older adults know about?
As discussed previously, natural changes occur to the teeth as we age, but other shifting factors adults experience – like changes in mobility or medications – can increase the risk of developing additional dental problems. These can include:
· Gum disease
· Tooth sensitivity
· Cavities and decay
· Dry mouth
· Oral cancer
· Tooth loss, and/or requirement for dentures and tooth replacements
As teeth become less sensitive with age, it can be more difficult for adults to notice and report dental issues like cavities when they occur. Older adults also tend to be more likely to report dental issues when they are at the severe stage, rather than seek help early on.
Am I going to lose teeth as I age?
It’s a pretty common misconception that tooth loss is inevitable as we age. While we see widespread tooth loss in elderly adults, it is largely preventable, and perhaps more due to the lack of preventative care and fluoride provided to the current elderly population from their birth to now.
Our teeth certainly change as we grow older, and permanent teeth once lost cannot regenerate. But, if you are aware of the changes your body goes through as you age take preventative measures, and maintain regular check-ups with your dentist, you will be less likely to experience tooth loss with age.
What are habits that can negatively impact adult dental health?
Grinding and Bruxism
Over time, our teeth naturally endure a lot of wear and tear. Even daily chewing wears down our teeth over time. But what about people who grind their teeth? Imagine the effects of a lifetime of bruxism, left untreated? If you’re experiencing teeth grinding, make sure you talk to your dentist about protective night guards and other treatments. Grinding can lead to cracked, sensitive teeth.
Excessive smoking and alcohol use
Certain risk factors contribute to poor oral health, including smoking and excessive alcohol use. Older adults who smoke and drink alcohol are at increased risk of poor oral health including tooth loss and gum disease.
Certain medication/maintenance drugs
Many elderly adults are on long-term medications, such as high blood pressure, heart disease, or chemotherapy, and these medications can wreak havoc on one’s oral health. Dry mouth is one of the most common side effects of medication. Saliva is one of our body’s most instrumental tools to fight against tooth decay. Talk to your dentist about your medications, and how you can combat medication’s side effects like dry mouth.
Dental product recommendations for adults
As we age, our teeth can become more vulnerable to damage. Some adults experience arthritis or other conditions that make brushing and flossing more difficult. We recommend the following dental tools to best protect adult’s pearly whites:
A decrease in manual dexterity is common in older adults. Water flossers can provide an easier grip than thin, slick traditional floss. Look for a unit that delivers a water pressure of 50 to 90 pounds per square inch (psi). Water flossers are great for both healthy and inflamed gum tissue.
Mouthwashes not only fight bacteria in the mouth and give you fresh breath but can also keep your teeth white! If the mouthwash includes hydrogen peroxide, it can be just as effective as whitening gel or strips. Look for a mouthwash that contains ingredients like chlorhexidine, chlorine dioxide, and cetylpyridinium chloride; the extra fluoride will help fight against cavities.
If you’re concerned about teeth whitening, ask our team at South Charlotte Dentistry about professional teeth whitening services.
Numerous clinical studies have shown that electric toothbrushes reduce plaque 21% better than manual toothbrushes. If you’re in the market and ready to purchase an electric toothbrush, look for one with a round, oscillating head. This significantly reduces plaque and gingivitis, compared to an electric toothbrush that only has a vibrating head. There are a lot of options on the market for electric toothbrushes with a variety of features, like some that come with a built-in 2-minute timer to ensure you’re brushing your teeth long enough.
What can adults do to maintain good oral health?
Although aging can increase your risk for certain oral health concerns, you can still maintain strong and healthy teeth with great oral hygiene.
· Brush your teeth at least twice per day
· Floss your teeth at least once a day
· Drink fluoridated tap water
· Combat dry mouth by staying hydrated and drinking lots of water
· Take dentures out at night, cleaning them daily
· Stop smoking or drinking excessively
· Visit your dentist for routine checkups, cleanings, and cancer screenings
Remember, even if you’re brushing and flossing daily, you still need to visit a dentist regularly. Your dentist and dental hygienists are trained to check for problems you might not see or feel on your own, like cavities or gum disease. When it comes to oral cancers, dentists and hygienists are much more likely to find it first, and oral cancers are more easily treated and preventable when seeing a dentist regularly.
Follow your dentist’s advice in terms of your next appointment and your daily oral routines!
Dental anxiety for adults
Children aren’t the only patients that experience dental anxiety. In fact, approximately 36% of the population experience dental anxiety or fear in the U.S. Columbia University’s College of Dental Medicine estimates that anywhere from 9% to 15% of Americans avoid dental treatment due to dental anxiety or fear.
In a survey taken with over 18,000 people worldwide, 61% of respondents said they’re suffering from dental fear, with almost 4% saying they’ve never been to a dentist. These anxieties stem from fear of pain, fear of chemical smells, fear of the sound of a drill, fear of opening one’s mouth for a long period, fear of receiving a dental bill, or embarrassment. Dental anxieties stem far and wide and aren’t unusual to encounter.
At South Charlotte Dentistry, our team of practiced and caring dental professionals are here to help – we understand these dental anxieties, and how to work with our patients to ease and adjust to dental practices. Our job is to create a relaxing and welcoming environment, as well as educate our patients every step of the way so that there isn’t any fear of the unknown or what’s coming next during an appointment.
For those in fear of pain, which isn’t altogether unfounded depending on the severity of a dental issue or treatment, there are options like sedation, nitrous oxide, or topical anesthetic to gradually numb tissues.
World-class technology also backs South Charlotte Dentistry against dental fear. Dentistry as a whole has come a very long way in the past few decades. There are so many advanced, painless systems or quiet drills on the market that make dental treatments much more bearable and relaxing.
As for embarrassment or other dental anxieties, remember that your dental team at South Charlotte Dentistry is working towards the same goal as you: to get excellent dental care, have a positive and pain-free experience, and leave satisfied and happy with your smile.
Keep your teeth strong and healthy at South Charlotte Dentistry.
Aging is inevitable and will certainly bring new changes to your dental health, but your teeth don’t have to bear the brunt of it. Work to keep your mouth healthy by practicing great oral hygiene and visiting your team at South Charlotte Dentistry regularly. If you would like to schedule an appointment or if you have questions about aging and dental health, reach out to us today at South Charlotte Dentistry.