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Aging & Oral Health. How to Avoid Losing Teeth At an Old Age?

Some facts about oral health and how to maintain it in later life.

Oral health affects every part of our life but is frequently overlooked. Your mouth is a window into your body’s wellness. It may exhibit indications of nutritional deficiency or infection in general. Systemic disorders, which affect the entire body, may manifest first as mouth sores or other oral issues.

Components of Oral Cavity

The oral cavity begins from the lips and ends at the junction of the esophagus, the following structures are considered as components of the oral cavity.

  1. Mouth. The oral cavity, or mouth, is the first segment of the digestive tract. It is adapted to ingest food, chew it into small particles, and mix it with saliva. Boundaries are defined by the lips, cheeks, and palate. The oral cavity houses the teeth and tongue and receives salivary gland secretions.
  2. Lips & Cheeks. The lips and cheeks assist in retaining food in the mouth and holding it in place when chewing. Additionally, they are employed in the construction of spoken words. The lips are densely packed with sensory receptors that aid in determining the temperature and texture of meals.
  3. Palate. The palate is the oral cavity’s roof. It is the structure that divides the oral cavity from the nasal passage. The front section, referred to as the hard palate, is bone-supported. The back region of the palate referred to as the soft palate, is made up of skeletal muscle and connective tissue. The soft palate concludes posteriorly in a protrusion called the uvula.
  4. Tongue. The tongue is used to handle food in the mouth and to communicate. The surface is coated with very small projections that act as abrasives and enclose the taste buds.
  5. Teeth. Twenty teeth make up a complete set of permanent (primary) teeth. A complete permanent (secondary) set consists of 32 teeth. Each tooth type has a unique form that relates to the way it processes food. Over the course of your lifetime, your mouth will develop five distinct tooth types: incisors, canines, premolars, molars, and third molars.
  • Incisors. The incisor teeth are the 8 front teeth. Your upper and lower jaws each have 4.
  • Canines. The canines are adjacent to the incisors. The mouth has 4 canines, 2 on each side.
  • Premolars. The premolars are beside the canines. The top and bottom have 4 premolars each.
  • Molars. The 12 molars are the largest and strongest teeth in the mouth. 6 are on top and 6 are at the bottom. The primary 8 molars are occasionally classified as 6-year and 12-year molars, based on when they generally develop.
  • Wisdom teeth. Impacted wisdom teeth are third molars that can’t fully emerge or develop normally. The wisdom teeth are the last adult teeth to emerge (erupt). Most people have four wisdom teeth – two on top and two on the bottom.

4 of the 5 kinds will emerge as primary teeth and will be replaced by permanent teeth:

  • As proven by research, when a newborn is around 6 months old, primary teeth begin to sprout through the gums. Typically, the lower incisors are the first primary teeth to emerge.
  • By the age of 3, the majority of children have all 20 of their primary teeth.
  • Between the ages of 6 and 12, children often lose their primary teeth. They are then replaced with permanent teeth.
  • Typically, the molars are the first permanent teeth to emerge.
  • By age 21, the majority of people have all of their permanent teeth in place.

6. The Microbiome. A healthy mouth requires beneficial bacteria. The mouth contains about 700 distinct types of bacteria. They aid in the prevention of dental illness and foul breath. With a balanced diet and consistent oral care, you can manage your mouth bacteria and maintain a bright, healthy smile.

HOW DOES THE MOUTH AGE? AGING AND ORAL HEALTH

As we age, it becomes even more essential to keep proper oral health and hygiene.

One widespread misperception is that tooth loss is unavoidable. This is incorrect. If properly cared for, teeth may last a lifetime.

As humans age, some changes occur gradually in the body, the mouth changes, the teeth’ nerves can shrink, making them less susceptible to cavities and other issues.

  • Slower cell renewal
  • Tissues become thin and lose elasticity.
  • Bones lose density and strength. What other effect Aging has on our body? Learn here.
  • The immune system might weaken, allowing infection and recovery to occur more quickly.
    These alterations impact oral tissue and bone, increasing the likelihood of future oral health issues.

Common oral health problems that occur with aging are listed below.

1. Tooth Loss

The child will lose all of their baby teeth by the age of 12.

Tooth Name  Eruption Time  Loss Time
Incisors  6-16 months 6-8 years
First Molars 1-2 years 9-11 years
Canines 2-3 years old 9-12 years
Second Molars 3-5 years old 10-12 years

When people reach an advanced age and lose their teeth, the section of the jaw bone that kept those teeth in place gradually recedes and does not revert to its prior height. This can be accelerated with osteoporosis, gum diseases, as it has been addressed by NIH that bone loss and gum disease can be connected.  Cavities (tooth decay) and periodontal (gum) disease, if left untreated, result in tooth loss. Few other causes of tooth loss can be harsh brushing techniques, teeth grinding habits, and, poor oral hygiene.

The causes and treatments of tooth loss are frequently addressed, owing to the fact that 27% of all seniors over the age of 65 have lost not one or two, but all of their teeth.

2. Dry Mouth

As we age, we become more susceptible to dry mouth. Which is also known as Xerostomia is a condition in which the salivary glands in the mouth do not produce enough saliva to keep the mouth moist. This can develop as a result of advanced age, medication usage, or certain medical problems.

Saliva is necessary for preserving dental health. It protects the teeth from decay and aids in the maintenance of healthy gums. When the salivary glands in the mouth do not generate enough saliva symptoms like bad breath, dryness and sickness in the mouth, difficulty in swallowing and drinking, changed the taste of mouth, and hoarseness in the voice.

Aging and dry mouth are very much related and several causes contribute to this condition, including the use of specific drugs, changes in the body’s capacity to digest pharmaceuticals, insufficient nutrition, and long-term health concerns. The prevalence of xerostomia in older individuals has been estimated to range from 10% among those over the age of 50 to 40% among those over the age of 65.

3. Changes in Jaw Structure

oral health and bone structure
Image Courtesy: gratefuldental.com

By the time girls are 16 and boys are 18, their jaws usually have grown to their full size. After that, the human jaw shrinks as we age, which can result in crowded front teeth in the elderly, according to recent research. Tooth loss also plays a huge role in changing the jaw structure. The jawline’s shape and alignment will change as tooth loss happens with aging. The jawline droops, and the facial muscles lose support, resulting in drooping and collapse of the entire face, especially the bottom half. This causes a change in the jawline.

4. Gum Related Problems

Gum disease can occur if brushing and flossing do not effectively eliminate plaque. Bacteria are found in plaque. It adheres to teeth and hardens over time, requiring the assistance of a dental specialist to remove. As the gum tissue recedes gradually with age, the delicate root tissue becomes exposed. The study indicated that between 30% and 39% of people had receding gums. This jumped to 71% for those aged 50-59 and above 90% for those aged 80-89. Initially, women experienced less gum recession than males, but by age 40, the rates were similar.

Gingivitis is a kind of gum disease that develops early. It arises as a result of plaque and tartar accumulation, which irritate and inflame the gums. Periodontitis is a term that refers to severe gum disease. It may result in tooth loss. Numerous elderly people suffer from periodontal disease, which is caused by bacteria in plaque irritating the gums, causing them to swell, redden, and become more prone to bleeding. One reason adult gum disease is so widespread is that it is typically painless until it progresses to an advanced stage. Without treatment, gums might begin to tear away from teeth, forming deeper pockets where food particles and further plaque can build.

gingivitis for oral health
Gingivitis

Receding Gums. Gum recession is common occurrence in those over the age of sixtyWhen the gingival tissue peels away from the tooth, the tooth’s root is visible. Inflammation and degradation can occur as result of bacteria building up in this environment. Some people are born with gums that are prone to receding more quickly than others. This gum disease can eventually cause damage to the gums, bones, and ligaments that support the teeth, culminating in tooth loss.

A lifetime of vigorous brushing might result in gum recession. However, the most prevalent reason for receding gums is gum disease (periodontal disease). Almost half (46%) of all persons aged 30 years or older have indications of gum disease; approximately 9% of adults have severe gum disease. In the United States, up to 64% of older persons have moderate or severe periodontitis, compared to fewer than 38% of younger adults.

5. Cavitiesoral health and cavity

Cavities are formed in the mouth when bacteria (plaque) convert sugars and carbohydrates from meals into acid. This acid erodes tooth enamel, resulting in cavities. Cavities are more prevalent in older individuals in part because more adults preserve their teeth for the whole of their lives. Cavities have symptoms like the sensitivity of teeth, mild to sharp pain upon eating or drinking anything, white, brown, or black staining on teeth, and visible holes in teeth upon examining. Because receding gums are common in older persons, cavities are more prone to form near the tooth’s base. Dry mouth is a common cause of cavities in them.

If left untreated, cavities become bigger and harm the deeper layers of your teeth. They can result in excruciating dental pain, infection, and tooth loss.  93% of seniors 65 years and older have dental caries (tooth decay) in their permanent teeth whereas untreated decay affects 18% of them.

6. Oral Cancer

Oral cancers include those of the lip, the mouth’s various soft tissues, and the oropharynx. Oral cancer is more prevalent in those over the age of 45 and is twice as prevalent in males as it is in women. Most patients diagnosed with these cancers are on average 62 years old. Oral cancer is most frequently caused by smoking and other forms of tobacco usage. Excessive alcohol consumption combined with cigarette use significantly raises the risk of mouth cancer. One may notice open sores, white or reddish areas, and changes in the lips, tongue, or mouth lining that remain longer than two weeks.

MAINTAIN ORAL HEALTH – WHAT TO DO TO AVOID LOSING TEETH

Aging can affect your oral health just to an equal level as your overall health. But here are steps that you can take to correct or minimize these changes. Following are a few tips to maintain the best of oral health,

Brush Teeth Two Minutes and Twice a Day

It’s no secret that most health specialists advise cleaning your teeth twice a day. Despite this, many of us still skip nighttime brushing. Brushing your teeth before bedtime, on the other hand, removes germs and plaque from the day – which is the goals of brushing teeth.

Brushing your teeth incorrectly is almost as bad as not brushing at all. Gently circularly move the toothbrush to eliminate plaque. Without plaque removal, calculus and gingivitis might develop. Plaque can form on the tongue too. This can cause problems like bad breath and other oral health issues. So it is advised to brush your tongue gently after every meal.

The American Dental Association (ADA) now recommends 2 minutes twice daily brushing. Brushing for less than 2 minutes won’t remove as much plaque. A 2009 survey found that most people only brush for 45 seconds. Hold your toothbrush at a 45-degree angle and gently brush your teeth back and forth. Brush both the inner and exterior surfaces of each tooth. The study looked at 47 people’s brushing time and plaque clearance. Brushing for 2 minutes instead of 45 seconds may help remove up to 26% more plaque.

Choose Fluoride Toothpaste & Fluoride Water and Ditch Some Ingredients

When you go to the market to buy toothpaste, always consider using fluoride toothpaste as it has been proven by many researchers that fluoride can help maintain strong teeth. fluoride is one of the most effective defenses against tooth decay. It works by combating microorganisms that might cause tooth decay and by acting as a protective barrier between your teeth and the rest of your mouth. The most effective toothpastes include 1,350-1,500ppm fluoride. Most toothpaste in the US contains sodium fluoride at a level of 1,000-1,100 mg/L. (about 1.3 mg in a quarter teaspoon, a typical amount of toothpaste used for one brushing).

The use of Fluoride water has been associated with better oral health. Fluoridated water strengthens teeth and lowers cavities by 25% in children and adults. The World Health Organization recommends a fluoride limit of 1.5 mg/L fluorides in drinking water.

But, there are certain ingredients that must be avoided in toothpaste such as triclosan, microplastics, beads, charcoal, sodium bicarbonate, and sodium lauryl sulfate has been proven harmful despite of their minor healthful effects on dental health.

Chew Properly

While chewing your food may seem self-evident, the manner you eat has a significant impact on your overall health. Chewing adequately produces a lot of salivae, which includes digesting enzymes. These enzymes aid promote digestion when they are released into the esophagus and stomach. Proper chewing aids digestion and nutrition absorption.

Follow this protocol for better digestion and absorption of food:

  • chew with your mouth closed, move the food from side to side with your tongue, and rotate your jaw slightly.
  • Each mouthful should be chewed about 32 times. When you chew your meal, the general purpose is to ground it into a fine paste.
  • Take time to slow down, eat mindfully, and chew slowly, and you may discover that you consume less food and enjoy it more.
Floss
oral health care with flossing
Pic Courtesy: gumbrandcom

The American Dental Association recommends using an interdental cleaning daily (like floss). Cleaning between teeth gaps can help prevent cavities and gum disease as upon chewing the small food particles can get entrapped into the dental spaces. When this happens, corrosive acid is discharged, producing cavities in the enamel of your teeth.

Floss at least once a day, either in the morning or before bed:

  • To floss properly, cut around 12 to 18 inches of floss and wrap both ends over your index and middle fingers.
  • When the floss reaches your gum line, bend it in a C-shape against your teeth. Move the floss gently up and down the sides of each tooth to remove plaque, germs, and food debris.
Probiotics For Oral Health

Probiotics for oral care are a fantastic strategy to decrease your risk of tooth decay since they combat the bacteria found in plaque. Probiotics may help prevent and cure oral diseases such as dental caries, bad breathgingivitis, periodontal disease, and oral cancer. Over the course of 3 days, 85% of test subjects who used a probiotic showed a decrease in the number of bacteria that produce foul breath. Gum and lozenges containing probiotics have also been demonstrated to be effective in the treatment of halitosis.

It’s important to understand that probiotics come in far bigger dosages than most other vitamins or minerals. While dosages vary, the American Family Physician advises that children drink between 5 and 10 billion colony-forming units (CFU) of probiotics daily, while adults should consume between 10 and 20 billion. Natural sources of probiotics include yogurt, kefir, cultured cottage cheese, and buttermilk, as well as non-dairy sources such as fermented vegetables (sauerkraut) and kombucha, a fermented tea.

Food For Your Oral Health

Consuming a range of nutrient-dense meals from all food categories enhances tooth and gum health. A balanced diet rich in fruits, vegetables, protein foods, grains, and dairy products provides important nutrients for both oral and total health.

  • Calcium-rich foods: such as low-fat or fat-free milk, yogurt, and cheese, as well as fortified soymilk, all contribute to the development of strong teeth and bones. Calcium is also found in tofu, canned salmon, almonds, and some dark green leafy vegetables.
  • Phosphorus is a mineral present in eggs, fish, lean meat, dairy products, nuts, and beans, is beneficial for the development of strong teeth and oral health.
  • Vitamin C: Consume lots of vitamin C-rich foods, such as citrus fruits, tomatoes, peppers, broccoli, potatoes, and spinach.
oral health recommendation
Image Courtesy; Ada.org
Limit Certain Foods

When trying to maintain ideal oral health through nutrition, it’s necessary to also avoid sugar and other items that cause more damage than good. The American Dental Association advises people to avoid the following 9 meals that might be harmful to their teeth. It includes ice, sugary stuff, coffee, sticky food, crackers, alcohol, and sports drinks. Also, sugar eventually transforms into acid in the mouth, eroding the enamel of the teeth. Cavities are caused by these acids. Additionally, acidic fruits, drinks, and coffee can erode tooth enamel. While you are not required to avoid such meals entirely, it never hurts to be careful.

Get Dental Checkups Twice a Year

A dental exam keeps your mouth healthy and allows your dentist to diagnose any dental issues. It helps your dentist to handle dental issues early on, or possibly prevent them from arising. Untreated disorders may become more difficult to treat later. Your daily habits play a critical role in your overall oral health.  At the very least, you should visit your dentist twice a year for cleanings and exams. Not only can a dentist remove calculus and check for cavities, but they may also identify prospective problems and recommend solutions. Even the most conscientious brushers and flossers, however, should schedule regular dental visits.

Dental Implants, Braces, and Dentures

Dental implants are widely used worldwide, they replace lost teeth, but they also help protect facial bone integrity. As with natural teeth, dental implants stimulate the bone, hence preserving bone and blood flow in the region. While dental implants can help retain the bone, adequate bone is required to begin with.

Dentures are a wonderful choice for people who have lost an adult tooth. There are many types of denture treatments available but snap-in dentures provide the most stability. These dentures snap into place firmly with the assistance of anchors placed on natural teeth or dental implants. These dentures are appropriate for patients who are missing teeth but have sufficient bone structure to accommodate an implant. Dentures are designed to closely match natural teeth, so there should be only a little visual difference. Indeed, dentures may even help to improve the smile and facial attractiveness.

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Aimen

Being a Doctor by profession, Aimen is passionate about helping people get better health in their lives. Aimen enjoys her research on Prime With Time subjects and strives to create better awareness of the problems and changes related to women's health.

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