Your Oral Health As You Age
Your oral health is important at any age. Not properly taking care of your teeth when you are young can have disastrous effects as you age. While cavity prevention is the main focus of your oral health when you are young, this focus can shift as you age. Even patients with good oral health when they are younger can find that the changes in their bodies impact the quality of their teeth over time. While the following oral concerns may apply to anyone at any age, these oral health issues are more likely to impact patients between 40 and 60 years of age.
First stage gum disease, gingivitis, is treatable and reversible through routine cleanings. However, if you have begun to experience regular bleeding gums that are tender or puffy, your gum disease is most likely periodontitis. This advanced form of gum disease is caused by severe bone loss, which can lead to tooth loss if left untreated. Older patients with untreated gum disease are more likely to have periodontitis. Recommended treatments for severe gum disease include scaling and root planing (a deep cleaning of the pocket lining in hopes that healthy tissue reattaches to the tooth), laser therapy to kill bacteria and promote healing, or referral to a specialist for surgery.
Untreated gum disease and tooth decay can cause you to lose your teeth. The average adult has three decayed or missing teeth. While missing teeth are commonly viewed as a cosmetic issue, they can lead to more severe medical complications. Missing teeth can contribute to difficulties eating and speaking, an increased risk of gum disease, an altered facial shape, and most severely, bone loss around the tooth. It is important to replace decayed or missing teeth to preserve the integrity of your mouth and prevent further loss of bone density in the jaw. Depending on the severity of tooth decay, porcelain veneers, porcelain crowns , and dental implants can repair or replace your missing teeth. Dental bridges can be used to replace teeth in areas where implants are contraindicated.
Increased Tooth Sensitivity
Years of enamel loss can lead to tooth sensitivity. Older patients are more prone to tooth pain caused by hot or cold temperatures. Tooth sensitivity can also be a sign of tooth decay, fractured teeth, worn fillings, exposed roots caused by gum disease, or teeth grinding. You can use a desensitizing toothpaste to reduce sensation, but additional treatment may be needed. Fabrication of a nightguard, fillings, crowns, and gum therapy can treat sensitivity from exposed roots and receding gums.
Changes to your health and certain medications can cause dry mouth, which many people view as a discomfort. However, dry mouth has further implications for your oral health. Saliva plays an important role in preventing gum disease and tooth decay by washing away harmful bacteria. Patients with dry mouth are at an increased risk of developing tooth decay and bad breath.
The older you are, the more at risk you are of developing oral cancer (but this doesn’t mean younger patients are not also susceptible to it). Most cases of oral cancer are detected during your dental visits because your mouth shows obvious signs. Tobacco and alcohol consumption increase your risk of developing oral cancer. Viruses, especially HPV 16, can lead to oral cancer. The common misconception is that HPV is an STD that affects a younger generation. However, HPV of any type can be caught at any age, and patients who have contracted HPV at any age are at an increased risk of developing oral cancer. Dr. Fiss recommends that everyone undergo an annual oral cancer screening. At Dr. Fiss’ office, patients can undergo their screening with FDA-approved VELscope®, which utilizes a narrow band of safe, high-energy blue light and specialized filtering technology to help thoroughly evaluate the oral tissue for abnormal areas of concern.
It is important to maintain your oral health at any age. To schedule your consultation with Dr. Fiss, contact our office at (312) 951-5230, or fill out our online contact form for additional information.