Hello fellow Benevilla Baby Boomers!
This is my first blog post for your wonderful newsletter and it brings a huge smile to my face to be part of such a great organization.
It is my hope and intention to bring exciting, useful, interesting and hopefully thought-provoking articles to you every week.
Speaking of huge smiles, here’s something you probably don’t think much about now that you are in your “senior” years, but you really, really should…the care of your teeth.
If you’re over 50, you probably have new aches and pains every day. That’s just life. I think you already know that quality of life is the key to staying on top of your game once you’re “over the hill” and a few miles down the path like me.
Well, oral health plays an extremely important role in overall health, and overall health contributes to good quality of life. So, taking care of your mouth is extremely important. I believe that your teeth are the window to your soul.
OK, I’m not trying to get overly philosophical here. What I’m trying to say is that the condition your teeth really is a terrific indicator of both how you honestly feel about yourself and how serious you take your personal health. Now, I’m not a dentist, nor have I ever played one on television.
So why am I bringing this up today? Because today is my quarterly checkup at the dentist. That’s right, I visit my dentist every three months. I am afraid I learned too late in life, how much your teeth affect your overall health.
If your mouth isn’t healthy, then you aren’t healthy.
When I was a kid, like almost everyone else, my Dad always took me to the dentist (who smoked while he worked on my teeth) once a year. I was told to brush my teeth twice a day and normally I didn’t. Heck, I was a kid and had better things to do with my time. Besides, I was safe because there was Fluoride in the water. Do you remember when that was the “cure all” for dental problems?
As I got older, my dental routine became even less important. Heck, in my teens and twenties I was invincible. Who worried about their teeth? Then, as I hit my late 20’s and early 30’s, I began to notice others having dental problems, toothaches, cavities, crowns and the dreaded root canals. Eeek….I looked in the mirror and began to these in my future as well.
Flossing, picking, enameling, caps, veneers, bite-wing radio graphs… who knew anything about these things yet?
Fortunately, I have been pretty lucky when it comes to how my teeth stood up to all of my abuse. Sure, I have a handful of cavities that have been filled and a couple of crowns on my back teeth, but overall, my chompers are all still original and have stood up to the test of time. Luckily, I woke up soon enough to understand how important the health of my mouth is.
As long as I can remember now (maybe 20 years), I have taken as much care of my teeth as I can and have benefited from it immensely. I brush twice a day at least. I am a dedicated “flosser” and I always have a little plastic box of pick brushes with me to insure a minimum of food debris remains between my teeth after meals. And, here’s my dirty (or clean) little secret….. I whiten my teeth every couple of months with 15% Carbamide Peroxide gel.
Your dentist (get one today if you don’t already have one) can help keep your smile pearly white, super clean, and functioning comfortably, so you can retain your natural teeth long into your golden years, if not forever. I bet you didn’t know that your dentist can even help with sleep disorders, chronic headaches, and “TMJ pain” in your lower jaw.
So, what are the 5 easiest way to maintain your oral health and keep smiling after 50?
5 DENTIST TIPS TO KEEP SMILING AFTER 50
So what kind of issues presents themselves “dentally” as we eat our way into our golden years?
Baby Boomers should watch out for these 5 common oral health issues.
1. Tooth Decay and Cavities
- Between 29% and 59% of adults over the age of 50 experience tooth decay
- 90% of adults have experienced tooth decay
That’s scary stuff huh? While a cavity can develop on any tooth, any time, for grownups, cavities tend to show up near former cavities, where dental work begins to deteriorate. Without treatment, tooth decay can lead to internal infection or tooth loss. You’ve heard it your entire life, but maybe your memory isn’t quite what it used to be.
2. Bruxism – Teeth Grinding
- One study shows that 8% of adults suffer from “Bruxism”
- Estimates show that 3.6 million oral splints are produced annually
More scary stuff huh? People who are stressed are more likely to grind their teeth. Improperly aligned jaw joints (TMJ disorder) can also contribute to this destructive habit. In many situations, “bruxers” don’t know they grind their teeth. A husband or wife usually notices the problem while the “bruxer” is sleeping. The dentist can look at your teeth and determine if they’re worn and damaged from bruxing. Wear a custom-made night guard, you’ll grind no more.
3. Periodontal/Gum Disease
- 70% of tooth loss is attributed to gum disease
- 75% of all Americans over 35 have some form of gum disease
- People with gum disease are twice as likely to develop heart disease and type 2 diabetes
- 30% of people over 50 have an advanced stage of gum disease
It’s getting even scarier, isn’t it? The older you get, the more likely you’ll experience “Gingivitis” or a more severe form of gum disease. Of course, heredity, stress, some medications, bruxism, hormone changes, tobacco use, diabetes, (deep breath), other systemic diseases, poor diet, obesity, and dry mouth can contribute to developing gum disease. While early-stage gum disease may require only a change in routine, most moderate cases should be treated with deep cleaning, or scaling and root planing. Antibiotic therapy with products such as “Arestin” can also help. More severe periodontal disease, called periodontitis, may require surgical treatment.
4. Oral Cancer
- Approx. 30,000 Americans are diagnosed each year with oral cancer
- Approx. 8000 Americans die each year from oral cancer
- Oral cancer rates increase after 50 years of age and peaking between 60 and 70
What can I say but OMG! Risk factors for oral cancer include using tobacco and drinking alcohol, but anyone can develop the condition. As with many health concerns, older patients are more prone to the disease – particularly current or former smokers. Fortunately, early detection at dental checkups can allow for early intervention, which could literally save your life. Modern dental technology has given us “ViziLite”, “VELscope” and “Identafi”, systems that allow us to see potentially cancerous cells before they reach the surface of the mouth and cause visible lesions. I have an oral cancer screening every year. You should too.
5. Dry Mouth – Xerostomia
- Normal saliva production is 4-6 cups a day (WOW) for an adult
- Dry mouth can contribute to oral pain, bad breath, gum disease, and tooth decay
Truth is, with every birthday, you produce less saliva. Maybe it’s the increasing number of candles you have to extinguish each year… Just kidding! Declining saliva flow is a normal part of aging. Some medications also reduce saliva production, as do radiation treatment and diabetes. While spit may seem gross, it’s nature’s industrial oral cleanser. Without sufficient saliva, your mouth will feel like a desert. You’ll also be more prone to gum disease and cavities because bacteria aren’t washed out of your mouth with your spit.
Also, try to take notice if you sleep with your mouth open. This isn’t healthy and also leads to red gums and dry mouth issues. This is a big problem for us living out in the desert Southwest. If you have “cotton mouth,” stop sucking on mints and talk with the dentist or your physician.
Take care of your teeth and they will take care of you.
Go see a dentist soon and start on a regular program of dental care and “Start Smiling Again.”
Don’t forget to check out Jay’s blog Survive55.