As a dentist practicing in Central Florida, I get to work with a lot of “mature” mouths. In fact, at Lifetime Dental, we have more than 250 patients age 90 or older.
A study by the American Dental Association back in the 1990s found that people who hang on to their teeth and keep them healthy live an average of 10 years longer than those who don’t. So if you want to be able to go to the dentist when you’re 90 years old, your best bet is to take care of your teeth now!
In most ways, caring for your teeth at age 70 isn’t a whole lot different than when you’re in your 20s. But there are a few things those of us of a certain age should consider.
First of all, elderly patients are often on medications that have side effects in the mouth. For example, there are more than 400 medications that cause a dry mouth. When the plaque (bacteria) builds up on the teeth, produces their acids, you don’t have the saliva to dilute it.
That’s not to say you should stop taking the medication. You may need it for a serious health issue. But you’ll have to be especially diligent about brushing, flossing and cleaning your teeth, as well as keeping your mouth hydrated.
Sometimes, caring for the mouth can be physically difficult for an older person. Maybe they have arthritis or other ailments that make it hard to brush their teeth. In this case, an electric toothbrush can help. In addition to having a bigger handle that’s easier to grip, an electric toothbrush does a lot of the work.
I also recommend directed water irrigation, like a Waterpik or another brand. When you just brush or floss your teeth, you’re only getting about 25 percent of the bacteria out of your mouth, while with directed water irrigation you’re removing close to 90 percent. That’s true for all ages, but it can be especially helpful with an older, drier mouth.
In the latest episode of the “Your Filthy Mouth” podcast, we elaborate on this and list a few more challenges that come with caring for a mature mouth. And, as always, we answer listener questions and talk about how your oral health can affect your overall wellness.
Until next week …
Charles “Dr. Chuck” Reinertsen, DMD, has been practicing dentistry in Central Florida since 1979 and is author of the book, “The Power of a Really Great Smile.” His passion is spreading the word about how the health of your mouth is intrinsically linked to the rest of your body. Learn more at www.yourfilthymouth.com.