Two positive aspects of growing older in the 21st century are the increased life expectancy compared to 100 years ago, and the fact that people are keep their teeth for much longer. That means there are alot of babyboomers out there getting “long in the teeth”.
That popular term refers to the receeding gums that many people experience as they age. Along with gum recession, older people experience decreased salivary flow and dry mouths from many medications. Teeth are less sensitive with age, so early cavities aren’t as painful. Decay on the roots of the teeth, also called “root caries” is very common in baby boomers and older generations.
Another common issue with older teeth is chipping or fracturing, especially when large fillings are already present. Fillings can make the teeth weaker, and teeth get brittle with age. A fracture can cause teeth to need crowns or even extractions. A fractured, broken tooth is a common dental emergency, because it can be painful.
Here are three recommendations for every adult who has their own teeth: Toothpicks, Fluoride, and Bite Guards
Toothpicks – use of these goes back for centuries. The Chinese are especially known for using toothpicks to keep their teeth clean. In addition to regular brushing and flossing, running a toothpick around the gumline of every tooth, inside and out, is a great way to keep teeth in shape. Plaque is removed before it can harden into tartar (also called calculus), gumline decay is prevented, and the gums get a massage to keep them firm. Toothpicks are inexpensive and easy to find – even at restaurants, and with some Swiss Army Knives!
Fluoride – in addition to fluoride in drinking water and toothpaste, dentists and hygienists frequently recommend use of concentrated fluoride paste at bedtime. Several brands, such as Prevident, are available. Rinsing with a fluoride-rich mouthwash such as ACT is also an alternative.
Bite Guards – wearing a bite guard at night can help decrease fractures and wearing of teeth, especially in people who grind and clench. Actually, most people grind at least a little bit during REM sleep, also called dream sleep, but some people are especially hard on their teeth. Several prescription medications, including selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, (SSRIs) can cause increased grinding. Examples of commonly used SSRIs are Prozac, Paxil, and Zoloft. Wearing a bite appliance can take some getting used to, but often people find that they sleep better and have less jaw soreness, and they can really tell the difference if they forget to wear one.
Keeping teeth for a lifetime isn’t always easy, but there are no teeth like your own teeth. Taking preventive measures to save them a is worthwhile and can help keep you out of the Dental Emergency Room.