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Elizabeth Duling, DMD - Owens Cross Roads & Hampton Cove Dentistry

Dental Health As We Age Part 2

August 28, 2018

As you age, your oral health often changes. If you don’t take care of your teeth and gums, you can experience oral health problems that could lead to serious medical problems, such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease, dementia, cancer, or respiratory infections.  A report from the CDC shows rates of oral cancer peak after age 60. And yet nearly 40% of older adults haven't seen a dentist in the past year. That percentage holds even for people who are experiencing pain due to a tooth or gum issue.

 

5. Tooth Loss - Tooth loss is often associated with aging. One reason why people are more likely to lose teeth as they age is because the teeth become less sensitive. The nerves in the teeth become smaller, and a person is less able to feel pain related to tooth decay or gum disease. Often, the condition isn’t treated until it’s too late and the tooth is beyond saving.  It’s rather easy to prevent tooth loss by taking good care of the teeth and by seeing a dentist often. If a person does end up losing one or more teeth, the solutions available today are more convenient and more natural looking than those available in the past.

6.Smoking as We Age- Even if a person has reached his or her 70s or 80s as a smoker, without facing lung disease or other conditions, it’s still a good idea to quit. Smoking makes a person more likely to suffer from gum disease and other oral health problems, including oral cancer. According to the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research, smokers are more liking to be missing teeth, too. Current smokers over age 65 had an average of slightly more than 15 teeth, while non-smokers over age 65 had an average of 19 teeth. Nearly 50 percent of current smokers over age 65 had no teeth left.

7. Oral cancer -Oral cancer screening is an examination performed by a dentist or doctor to look for signs of cancer or precancerous conditions in your mouth.  Most dentists perform an examination of your mouth during a routine dental visit to screen for oral cancer. Some dentists may use additional tests to aid in identifying areas of abnormal cells in your mouth.  The goal of oral cancer screening is to detect mouth cancer or precancerous lesions that may lead to mouth cancer at an early stage — when cancer or lesions are easiest to remove and most likely to be cured.  People with a high risk of oral cancer may be more likely to benefit from oral cancer screening, though studies haven't clearly proved that. Factors that can increase the risk of oral cancer include:

•Tobacco use of any kind, including cigarettes, cigars, pipes, chewing tobacco and snuff, among others

•Heavy alcohol use

•Previous oral cancer diagnosis

•History of significant sun exposure, which increases the risk of lip cancer

 

8.Dentures and Implants - Patients who have lost all of their natural teeth still need to visit the dentist. Whether you have replaced your teeth with standard dentures or dental implants, the importance of keeping up regular dental appointments even when you have lost your natural teeth cannot be overstressed.

Dentures are the most common option for patients who have lost all of their teeth. It is important to visit the dentist regularly to ensure that your dentures remain comfortable, fit snuggly and remain in the best possible condition. It’s also important to keep an eye on the health of your gums.

Many patients who wear dentures discover that they become loose over time, as their gums and bone recede, meaning that dentures that once fitted snuggly over the gums become loose and unwieldy. This can cause problems with eating and speaking, and can also cause dentures to fall out at inopportune moments. Regular visits to your dentist will ensure these problems are rectified early, and your dentures adjusted as necessary.

Dental implants and the crowns, bridges or dentures attached to them look and act like natural teeth – and, like natural teeth, require regular dentist and hygienist appointments to keep them healthy.

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