As we get older, the American Dental Association says we enter a second set of decay prone years (the first being when we were kids).
Some of the reasons you might have more cavities later in life is dry mouth, which is a side effect of over 500 medications. You may also be more prone to gum disease and oral cancer as you get older.
Dry mouth is not a normal part of aging, but as we get older we tend to make more drugs that can cause dry mouth. Some tips for dealing with ADA dry mouth:
• Use oral moisturizers such as sprays and mouthwashes.
• Drink more water and don’t wait until you are thirsty to drink.
• Use sugar-free gum or lozenges to stimulate saliva production.
• Use a humidifier in your home to keep moisture in the air.
• Avoid foods and drinks that irritate your dry mouth, including coffee, alcohol, sodas, and acidic fruit juices.
Gum disease, also called periodontal disease, is caused by bacteria found in plaque. These bacteria irritate the gums, making them swollen, red, and more likely to bleed. It can be difficult to catch gum disease in its early stages, according to the ADA, because it is a painless disease until advanced stages.
Untreated gum disease can pull the gums away from the teeth and form pockets where food particles and plaque build up. Eventually, gum disease can destroy the gums, bones, and ligaments that support your teeth, resulting in tooth loss.
According to the American Cancer Society, approximately 35,000 cases of cancer of the mouth, throat and tongue are diagnosed each year. The average age of people diagnosed with these cancers is 62 years old. During regular dental visits, your dentist will check for signs of oral cancer, including open sores, white or reddish patches, and changes in your mouth that last for more than two weeks. Detecting oral cancer early saves lives, so having regular dental check-ups is important.
Medicare does not cover routine dental care, according to the ADA, so you should start planning your dental expenses before you retire. Organizations like AARP and others offer additional dental plans to their members for coverage. You can also consider discounted dental plans that have lower monthly fees than traditional insurance, or look for low-cost or no-cost dental care in your area through teaching clinics.