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If you’ve ever considered the prospect of living without teeth as you age, it’s probably caused you considerable amount of distress just thinking about it. Multiple tooth loss can indeed be traumatic and costly, and, for some, the remedies are less than ideal. That said, you’ll be pleased to know that aging itself isn’t much of a contributor to tooth loss, and that many people live their entire lives with nearly all of their natural teeth intact. So what’s the best way to ensure you’re among this coveted group?
Let’s face it. We all want to keep our natural teeth. Here are a few ways to ensure you do just that as you move along in years. And remember, there is no defined age where problems start to arise, so thinking ahead regardless of your current age is always a good idea.
- Periodontal Disease: Without a doubt, periodontal disease is the number one destroyer of smiles. There is no cure for this leading cause of adult tooth loss in North America, and once it begins, it can only be proactively and professionally managed. So, here’s the familiar refrain: maintain your regular visits, and if you’re placed on a periodic maintenance routine where you visit your dentist more than twice a year, be sure to keep those appointments. Keeping those appointments will help you keep your teeth.
- Systemic Disease: There are a host of diseases that can adversely affect oral health, (diabetes, heart disease, etc.) so being mindful of this connection, and maintaining an open door of communication with your doctor and dentist while undergoing treatment may help you minimize the effects these diseases can have on your teeth.
- Poor Habits: We all know a diet high in sugar, starch and acid harms surface enamel and lessens a tooth’s ability to protect itself from decay. You may not know, however, that smoking and excessive alcohol consumption can also do significant harm. For example, both cigarette smoke and alcohol rob gum tissue of the moisture needed to keep it healthy, leaving it acidic and prone to decay, and smoking can interrupt the mouth’s natural healing mechanisms. More benign habits can also damage teeth and consistently gnawing on objects not designed to be in the mouth all day, like pencils, pipes, paper clips and ice cubes, are not good habits to pursue. Additionally, using your teeth as a vice to open bottles and rip apart bags is best left to those among us committed to losing teeth, not keeping them.
- Prescription Medication: Lastly, certain prescription medicines can dry out the mouth in ways similar to smoking and alcohol, so if you’re taking prescription drugs, be sure to keep your hydration in check as per your doctor’s recommendations, or use chewing gum with Xylitol to help maintain saliva production throughout the day.
So, as you can see, allowing your “permanent” teeth to live up their name really isn’t that difficult. The old TV image of every grandpa throughout the land dropping his teeth into a bedside jar at the close of the day is far from a reality for the majority of today’s seniors, and it doesn’t have to be for you either. Maintain a solid oral care routine, and ask your care providers about keeping a healthy mouth throughout your years, and you’ll be well on your way to ensuring your teeth stay just where you want them to be – in your mouth.