What particular problems may older people have?
Your gums may recede (shrink back) as you get older, and your teeth may become a little more sensitive as a result. Your dental team will be able to show and advise you regarding the best brushing methods to keep any gum problems under control and may also suggest a mouthwash to deal with the sensitivity.
You may find it more difficult to clean your teeth properly if you develop mobility problems with your hands or arms, or if your eyesight becomes poor. Your dental team can give you help and advice on the best aids to use. A magnifying mirror and a good light are often helpful.
If you have lost some teeth in the past, and have bridges or dentures, you may have particular cleaning needs. Your dental team can help you with all these.
Some people take regular medication which makes their mouth dry. Saliva helps to protect your teeth against decay, so if you have less saliva than usual ask your dental team for advice. Products are available to help with saliva flow.
Will I lose my teeth?
No. With the right home care and help from your dental team, it is possible to keep your teeth for life. Gum disease and tooth decay can be prevented whatever your age.
Should I expect to have problems with my gums?
Gum disease is caused by a build-up of bacteria called ‘plaque’. Plaque forms constantly on your teeth. It is important to remove this plaque to avoid gum inflammation (swelling and soreness). If the plaque is not removed, the gum disease will, in time, affect the bone under the gums. This bone supports the tooth roots, so your teeth may gradually become loose.
How do I know if I have gum disease?
As it is often painless, many people may not know that they have gum disease. Some common signs are:
• gums that bleed when you brush them
• loose teeth
• receding gums
• bad breath
Not everyone has all these signs. You may only have one.
Can I still get tooth decay?
Yes. The same dental plaque that causes gum inflammation can cause decay, particularly if you have sugary foods and drinks often. There is a particular risk of decay at the gum edge when the gum has receded, as the ‘neck’ of the tooth is not protected by enamel (the hard coating that covers most of the tooth).
How can I prevent gum disease and tooth decay?
Follow these guidelines:
• Thoroughly remove plaque from your teeth (and dentures if you have them) last thing at night and at least one other time during the day.
• Use a fluoride toothpaste containing 1350 to 1500ppm (parts per million) of fluoride. There are many special kinds of toothpastes on the market, including tartar control and total care toothpaste. Your dentist may prescribe a higher-fluoride toothpaste if they think you need it.
• You should clean in between your teeth at least once a day using interdental brushes or dental floss.
• Cut down on how often you have food and drinks containing sugar – especially sweets that last longer in the mouth such as boiled sweets or mints.
• Visit your dental team regularly, as often as they recommend.
What do I need to clean my teeth properly?
You need a small-headed, soft to medium textured toothbrush and a fluoride toothpaste. To help clean between your teeth you could also use an ‘interdental brush’, floss or tape. If you have arthritis you may find it difficult to grip a toothbrush handle, but you can get handle adapters. Electric or ‘power toothbrushes’ are also ideal for people with limited movement. The handles are thicker and easier to hold and the oscillating head does most of the work. Power toothbrushes have been proven to remove more plaque than manual toothbrushes, so everyone can benefit from using them.
There are many products available, your dental team will be more than happy can help you decide which are best for you.
What if I have missing teeth?
Dentures, bridges or implants replace lost or missing teeth so that you can enjoy a healthy diet and smile with confidence. For more information on these see our leaflets in Practice on ‘Dentures’, ‘Bridges and partial dentures’ and ‘Dental implants’ or speak to one of the team.
What causes mouth ulcers?
Ulcers can be caused by broken teeth, poorly fitting dentures or sharp pieces of food. Once the cause is removed, ulcers should heal within 3 weeks. If you notice an ulcer which does not heal, see your dental team straight away. Many serious conditions, such as mouth cancer, can be better treated if diagnosed early at a routine check-up.
Thank you for reading and we hope that the above information was useful to you. If you would like to book an appointment with us about any of the above then please call us on 01228 521889 or visit our contact page to speak with a member of our dental team for advice.