Growing older does not mean you outgrow the need to visit a dentist.
There are many reasons to see a dentist at least once a year. For instance, as adults age they produce less saliva in the mouth, so the mouth’s natural cleansing action is lost. Medication may also decrease the flow of saliva and cause dry mouth. Add to that, the gums shrink and expose areas of each tooth to potential infection or decay. Older adults are also at higher risk for oral cancer.
Despite improvements in oral health for the general population in the past 50 years, older Americans still face high risk of oral disease, according to a new report from Oral Health America, which reveals that emergency room visits for dental-related issues among adults over 65 rose from 1 million in 1999-2000 to 2.3 million in 2009-2010.
What To Do
Early detection begins with you. See your dentist regularly. Studies show a connection between diseases of the mouth and other illnesses, such as diabetes, heart attacks and strokes. Other tips for a healthier mouth include:
- Use an electric toothbrush if brushing has become difficult because of physical limitations.
- Floss to keep gums healthy. Use pre-cut strips if you have trouble handling floss.
- Relieve dry mouth temporarily with sugarless candies or gum. Chips of ice or sips of water will help. Also use lip lubricants daily.
- Be on the lookout for the following signs and symptoms of oral cancer, according to the AARP.
- Persistent pain, tenderness, or numbness in the mouth or on the lips
- A sore that bleeds easily and doesn’t heal
- A white or red spot on your gums, tongue, or mouth lining
- A change in the color of your oral tissues
- Persistent sore throat or sensation of something being caught in your throat
- A lump or thickening on your lip, cheek, or anywhere in your mouth
- Trouble chewing, swallowing, speaking, or moving your tongue or jaw