By: Red Hot Mamas
Published: May 26, 2010
Say cheese! Our smile is one of the first things people notice and something everyone wants to keep shiny and bright throughout life. We face more challenges as we age, including keeping our pearly whites gleaming and healthy. Our bodies change and so does the condition of our teeth, gums and general oral health.
As the years roll by, our teeth change color, becoming more gray or yellowish. Teeth change shape and become thinner as tooth enamel loses luster. Some people even find their teeth become loose due to bone loss and gum disease. Hormonal changes in women can make gums more sensitive and make it easier for gingivitis (inflammation of the gums) to develop. Sometimes this leads to swollen, red gums that bleed easily and the gums to recede.
The basics of oral hygiene are important and ones you probably are well aware of:
- Brush your teeth twice a day
- Floss every day
- Don’t smoke
- Eat a well balanced diet
- Visit your dentist for regular professional cleanings
If you choose to overlook these regular habits, your chances of being afflicted with gum disease increases. The American Academy of Periodontology (AAP) estimates that approximately three out of four Americans suffer from some form of gum disease – from mild cases of gingivitis to the more severe form known as periodontitis. Periodontal disease can be diagnosed during a routine dental exam. Your dentist should examine your gums for inflammation and plaque deposits. Long term implications for gum disease can be very serious if left untreated. Research has linked gum disease to several other diseases including diabetes, heart disease and certain forms of cancer. If left untreated, gum disease can lead to tooth loss- and nobody really wants to have dentures. This is even more reason why maintaining our smile as we get older is increasingly more important.
You may already know the basics, but here are some secrets behind a beautiful smile you may not be aware of:
- Don’t swish and guzzle your wine; it could erode the enamel on your teeth! We’ve all experienced the embarrassing effects of red wine staining our teeth, but regular consumption can actually harm tooth enamel. You don’t have to give up your vino, just take small sips and rinse with water after drinking.
- You already know how damaging smoking is; throat cancer, lung cancer, mouth cancer, even death can result from regular tobacco use. As if that’s not enough of a reason to quit, smoking turns your teeth yellow and leaves a sticky film on teeth which harbors bacteria that can cause gum inflammation, tooth decay and even tooth loss. QUIT!!
- Getting up in the years? Aging and receding gums makes you more susceptible to decay near old fillings and unprotected root surfaces. Bump your fluoride intake to protect your teeth. Brush regularly with a fluoride toothpaste, and swoosh with fluoride rinses or gel and you’ll have fewer cavities.
- Chew some sugar-free gum to inhibit the production of the bacteria that causes cavities. Many of the sugar-free gums on the market include the additive xylitol, a natural sweetener found in plants and fruits that is FDA approved as a food additive. Chew some gum after drinking soda or eating citrus and acidic foods that can make teeth more prone to decay.
- Don’t go nutso with the whitening. When done too often, whitening can increase sensitivity in the teeth. Be aware that whitening can cause tooth sensitivity to hot and cold foods and beverages. If you already experience sensitivity, keep this in mind. Not to mention, whitening products can quickly take a toll on your pocketbook.
We can’t avoid aging or prevent the repercussions of aging, but we can control some of the risk factors that can increase chances of developing gum disease and other oral implications from aging. Fortunately, by visiting your dentist regularly and practicing good oral hygiene, you can avoid putting a serious damper on your smile.
“What Is Gum (Periodontal) Disease?.” NIH Senior Health. National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research, 10 05 2010. Web. 15 Jul 2010.
“Dispelling Myths About Gum Disease: The Truth Behind Healthy Teeth and Gums.” Perio.org. American Academy of Periodontology, 18 02 2010. Web. 15 Jul 2010.