Seniors should pay special attention to their health and senior care, we know this. However, are we giving our chompers just as much attention? Smile Senior Care urges seniors to get routine screenings for their teeth to make sure that we have a healthy mouth well into our advanced years.
Plaque is a common problem for people of all ages. It is easily kept at bay with regular brushing and flossing.
Everyone develops plaque because bacteria are constantly forming in our mouths. These bacteria use ingredients found in our diet and saliva to grow. Plaque causes cavities when the acids from plaque attack teeth after eating. With repeated acid attacks, the toothenamel can break down and a cavity may form. Plaque that is not removed can also irritate the gums around your teeth, leading to gingivitis (red, swollen, bleeding gums), periodontal diseaseand tooth loss. 1
No one wants to hear that they have a cavity. Early detection of dental cavities are best so that action may be taken before losing the tooth entirely.
Two main factors contribute to tooth decay — bacteria and a diet high in sugar and starch. There are over 500 different types of bacteria that are normally present in the mouth. These bacteria combine with food and saliva to form a sticky substance called plaque that attaches to teeth. Foods rich in starches add to the stickiness of the plaque, which begins to get hard if it remains on the teeth after a couple of days and turns into tartar or calculus. Bacteria in the plaque convert sugar into acid that dissolves the tooth structure causing holes, or cavities. Because of these two contributing factors, dental caries have been described as a “dietobacterial” disease.
The parts of teeth that are most vulnerable to tooth decay are areas where plaque can accumulate most easily. Plaque tends to settle into the pits and fissures in the tops of teeth, into the areas in between the teeth, and next to the gum line. Where there is plaque, there are bacteria and acid, and eventually destruction of the tooth surface. The cavity starts in the outer layer of the tooth (enamel) and as it gets deeper, penetrates into the softer inner layer of the tooth (dentin.) Typically, it isn’t until the decay reaches the dentin that a person will start to notice signs and symptoms of the cavity. 2
Cavities can be treated in a variety of different ways, depending on how early they are detected. If the damage is minimal, fluoride treatments may be enough to encourage the enamel to repair itself. If the damage is more extensive, fillings may be necessary. Depending on the damage, you could require a crown or dental extraction. Regular visits and home dental care should prevent you from getting to this stage of tooth decay.
Just remember, regular dental visits every six months, brushing and flossing after every meal and you should maintain a healthy, gorgeous smile well into your senior years.