We are all living longer, and that is causing challenges in all areas of our health. Instead of something killing us like it would have done in the year 1600 or 1900, we survive and go on to live another day. Staying alive is great, but our habits and health problems will take a toll on our teeth.
If your 80-year-old self could speak to you now about your teeth, what would they say? They’d give us personal anecdotes about the things dental experts are trying to tell us right now If we pay attention, our old age will be less troublesome and more pleasant.
Tooth Loss is Coming
Unless you are careful, you will be one of the 69 percent who loses a tooth as early as age 35. Many more people have lost teeth by age 65. It only gets worse from there. This makes it vital that you take tooth care very seriously. You can’t put it off and think that there will be time later to fix the problem.
Sugar is your enemy
Sugar is, of course, a known enemy of your health and healthy weight. Did you know it will guarantee you lose teeth too early and have to cope with tooth loss for longer than you should? According to the World Health Organization, sugar’s effect on oral health contributes to untreated cavities, which it considers part of a major worldwide health problem.
Water is your friend
In so many ways, water is the best friend our teeth could have. The more we choose water over other drinks, the more we reduce our chances of tooth decay. In fact, we are also reducing tooth discoloration. Water has two big benefits.
First, there is nothing in plain water to cause tooth decay. This is the exact opposite of many things we drink. Second, it rinses your teeth, decreasing the chances of tooth decay due to other things you’ve been eating or drinking that day. This is especially important for people who suffer from dry mouth because they don’t make the saliva they need. Saliva reduces tooth decay under normal circumstances.
Please take time to care for your teeth
When you don’t floss often, you have a good chance of developing gum disease which can threaten the viability of all of your teeth. Why not keep the floss in a drawer near the television or at your desk? At least, when binging a favorite show, you can spend a few minutes flossing.
Also, it’s important to wait at least 30 minutes after you brush your teeth before you drink or eat. This is one rule that many of us break every morning because we brush our teeth and head for work with a cup of coffee to go.
There are many natural toothpastes that have been proven to work against tooth decay without causing cavities. There are even varieties for specific problems such as gum disease, dry mouth, and tooth sensitivity. If you make your own toothpaste, be aware that common ingredients, such as baking soda and activated charcoal, should be used with care. You don’t want to scratch your enamel.
Losing a tooth is serious business
If you lose a tooth, it’s painful before you go to the dentist as well as during and after! You can believe your 80-year-old self about that.
Having a dental implant is the best way to secure the bone for the future. These are expensive procedures at this point, and yet they are truly the healthiest way to handle the problem. The dental implant actually causes bone growth and becomes like a real tooth.
Dentures aren’t the answer
If you are thinking dentures won’t be so bad, think again. If you start wearing dentures when you are 65, you may need new ones every 8 to 10 years. If you live to be 100, that’s about 4 sets of dentures. Furthermore, people who have lost their teeth experience severe bone deterioration. This could mean that you live years with badly fitted dentures, no matter how hard a dental professional tries to fix them for you.
Don’t skip the dentist
Why do we find excuses to six-month cleanings and checkups? Those cleanups may seem cosmetic, but they are removing six months or more of plaque. The less you do it, the more plaque bacteria has a chance to create cavities or burrow even deeper, leading to root canals. Furthermore, gum disease and other dental diagnoses have been shown to be linked to a higher incidence of physical diseases. This implies that taking care of your oral health is essential to your physical health.
Remember that certain bad habits and health problems don’t help
Everything our body goes through affects our oral health. The flu, the coronavirus, and extended illnesses can cause a temporary decline in tooth care that can lead to a long term problem. Diabetes and other illnesses cause dry mouth, a major threat to tooth health. Cancer treatments, such as chemo, are especially lousy for our teeth and our tooth care.
Furthermore, it is part of the unfairness of mental illnesses that these afflictions can cause us to skip tooth care. Depression is a big culprit as our brains tell us that we don’t care that one day we will be 80 years old and wish we had brushed our teeth more often. For that matter, a major emotional upset — such as a break-up with a partner or the death of a family member — can have the same effect.
Drugs and alcohol aren’t kind to our teeth. Using them tends to discourage oral health care and, in many cases, these substances contribute directly to tooth deterioration. Cigarettes are the worst. Dentists will tell you that this is a huge factor in persistent teeth deterioration. Plus, any tobacco comes with the threat of oral cancer, and that’s something you really don’t want at any age.
Instead of denying these facts to ourselves, we can accept our failings and the problems out of our control, then act to protect our teeth. Our 80-year-old self will have fewer regrets, more teeth, and better physical and mental health in the bargain.
M.S. Hurt writes articles regularly about oral health issues, serving two multi-discipline dental offices, an oral surgeon’s office, and an orthodontist’s office. She has a degree in journalism and a background in education, government, and the arts.