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Optimizing smiles as we grow older

Much has been written about optimizing our health as we age. Thankfully, most of us now get regular physicals, track cholesterol numbers, exercise daily, etc. But, what about our oral health? Can we be proactive about keeping a bright, healthy smile? Thankfully – YES! Here are some simple, smart tips to help you retain your pearly whites your whole life long.

KEEP YOUR GUMS HEALTHY: Bacteria (plaque) is always forming on your teeth. If you don’t remove it, it can cause soreness, swelling and bleeding gums. If left untreated, it can cause infections that affect the bone underneath. Be on the lookout for signs of gum disease, including: bleeding when you brush; receding gums; loose teeth and bad breath. Schedule an appointment with us if you start noticing these symptoms of periodontitis.

DON’T LET YOUR MOUTH DRY OUT: Saliva helps keep your teeth clean and protects your mouth from decay. A dry mouth increases your chance of tooth decay. Your medication could be to blame, so be sure to drink plenty of water. You may also find sugarless candy or sugarless gum can help.

BE KIND TO SENSITIVE TEETH: Worn enamel, gum issues and tooth decay can all make your teeth more sensitive. Good dental care is the best prevention. Brush, floss, and come and see us regularly. We may even recommend switching to different toothpaste to make you more comfortable.

PREVENT CHIPS, ENSURE YOU’RE GETTING SUFFICIENT FLUORIDE: Stop chewing ice or other hard foods that cause chips in your enamel or even break teeth. And, if you prefer bottled water over tap water, make sure you are getting enough fluoride. You may want to add a daily fluoride rinse to your brushing routine.

BE ON THE LOOKOUT FOR ACID: Fizzy drinks, citrus fruits and juices all contain acid. Sugar and starchy foods can cause your mouth to make acid – which wears away the enamel on your teeth. Try to eat sugary or starchy foods with your main meals – when your mouth makes the most saliva to help wash acid away.

WATCH OUT FOR SHIFTING TEETH: Have you noticed that food seems to be getting stuck in new places in your mouth? Yes, this annoying phenomenon is a “thing!” Teeth actually shift as we age. Misaligned teeth can lead to teeth erosion and may even damage supporting tissue and bone. If your teeth have shifted dramatically, you may need to consult an orthodontist. Let’s talk about it during your next visit.

BE VIGILANT AGAINST SIGNS OF ORAL CANCER: As we age, there is a small chance of developing cancer of the mouth, throat, tongue or lips. Of course, we don’t need to discuss how damaging smoking is to your health. But, in the “golden years,” it also makes sense to drink alcohol more moderately. And, all Floridians – no matter our age - should use lip balm with sunscreen whenever we go outside. Early warning signs of oral cancer include sores, red or white patches, and any long-lasting changes in your mouth. Let us check them right out.

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