“Feeling long in the tooth”. It’s an evocative phrase, but often pretty far from reality! As we approach middle age, we often begin to notice many issues with our teeth, particularly embarrassing gaps and shortfalls in our dental hygiene. Fortunately, Vitality is here today to help answer all your questions about dental health in your middle ages and beyond.
You’ve probably heard the old wives tales that your teeth can grow as you age, but they actually can’t. Once you pass your early twenties and your last [wisdom] teeth come through, that is it for your new teeth. However, as we age our gums tend to recede, making more of the tooth visible. This gum recession isn’t something you ever want, however! It can be a warning sign for serious gum disease, and can leave the mouth very open for issues such as tooth sensitivity and a higher risk of decay.
Sadly, that’s not the only issue you may notice affecting your oral health as you age. Other issues could include:
- Increased staining or discolouration
- Thinner, ‘glassy’ or translucent enamel
- Flattening of chewing surfaces or enamel erosion
- A dry mouth or too little saliva
- Pain, sensitivity or notable decay issues.
The good news through it all, however, is that you [and your dental health practitioner] have all the power you need to keep your mouth healthy and happy even as you age- and this is how.
Don’t be afraid to visit the dentists
Many of us skip out on regular dental care after childhood. After all, you start your working life as an adult feeling the pinch of tighter economy, then there’s the hectically busy early milestones of life to surmount… and you’re more likely to spend the next few decades worrying about your kid’s teeth then your own. Maybe you now believe your oral health is past saving. It isn’t! No matter what dental issues you may have, your dental health practice will help you make the most of your teeth and your life.
Make use of the best modern technology
Your toothbrush is very important. In many ways, more so than your toothpaste! This means you should be using the best. While this is always something you should chat through with your dental practitioner so you can get the best possible advice for your needs, this will generally mean an electric toothbrush. Provided they are used correctly, these are far more efficient at removing sticky plaque and debris from the tooth surface. They can also be easier for you to apply the correct, guided pressure with as your joints get stiff. Remember that technique matters too- relax your lips [make sure you are over a sink], get in all the nooks and crannies, and get messy! Your dental health depends on it.
Don’t be afraid to use your mirror, either. You may want to consider a magnifying mirror just for these purposes, so it’s easier to see what you are doing in hard-to-reach areas.
Get a little sensitive
Teeth do tend to get sensitive as you age. This doesn’t mean you have cavities, just that gum recession has exposed the lower half of the tooth, which can be very much more sensitive than the crown. Desensitizing toothpaste can help keep the issue under control- you can even rub a small amount over the base of the gums before you sleep to help boost its effects even further.
Get your motor running…
While it’s not often something we pay attention to, our saliva production decreases significantly as we age. You may be a little surprised to see that saliva matters to your oral health at all. It is, in many ways, one of your most important defences against tooth decay. It protects the teeth, helps maintain the correct pH balance in the mouth, and even ‘lubricates’ the tooth surface so plaque and bacteria are less likely to stick. It wards off both bad breath and tooth decay. There’s a lot you can do to keep your saliva-producing glands running smoothly, though.
Pay close attention to your hydration. It’s not uncommon for us to allow ourselves to become dehydrated as we age, yet it can impair the body in many small ways such as this. A glass of milk a day will also help – it’s a very neutral pH that contains a hefty dose of minerals to keep your teeth strong. Don’t drink it at night, though- milk, like any non-water drink, can promote bacterial growth if left in the mouth too long. Lastly, get into the habit of chewing gum or sucking on a pastille or mint. Provided they are sugar-free, they will help keep your saliva flowing and your mouth healthy.
Fake it ‘til you make it
It’s highly likely you either have some prosthetic dental work like bridges, crowns or half dentures, or already have a full set of dentures. While these aspects of cosmetic dentistry can help restore your confidence, encourage you to smile and keep you looking great, it’s equally important that you care for them, just like you would ‘real’ teeth. You can’t ignore them just because they don’t have nerves. They can still harbour bacteria and plaque, so need regular cleaning and attention according to your dentist’s recommendations.
There is a condition, known as ‘angular cheilitis’, where your dentures cause you to be sore at the edges of the mouth. This is caused by your changing face shape as you age but can make you look older than you are. A dentist can easily help you correct the issue, and keep your teeth well-fitting and healthy- even if they are removable! Dentures should never hurt, pinch or rub, so see your dentist for any issues. A maintenance check-up yearly if you have full dentures, and every 6 months if you have partial prosthetics, is also recommended.
Keep your smile bright
Your teeth have been working for you for a long time, it’s not surprising they may need a little TLC. Stains and discolouration age you, but many OTC solutions just tackle superficial stains instead of truly brightening your smile. A dental practice like Vitality, however, can assist with proper whitening as well as a host of other cosmetic treatments to brighten, lift and enhance your smile. Veneers can cover dubious tooth enamel, crowns can restore missing teeth, and composite bonding can even repair a shoddy tooth to look brand new.
You may even be a candidate for some tooth realignment. Braces aren’t just for youngsters! Not only do crooked teeth impair your look, but they can hurt too. While you may have not had all the benefits of modern orthodontic techniques when you were growing, you can make great use of them now. In fact, you are the perfect candidate for invisible braces– a discreet, comfortable solution to crooked teeth that far outstrips the ‘train tracks’ you may remember.
No matter your age, Vitality are happy to see you, so why not make an appointment today? Take the next step to a bright, smiling future with us today.