Reduced saliva flow that results in a dry mouth is a common problem among older adults.
It is caused by certain medical disorders and is often a side effect of medications such as antihistamines, decongestants, pain killers and diuretics.
Some of the common problems associated with dry mouth include:
– Constant sore throat
– Burning sensation
– Problems speaking
– Difficulty swallowing
– Hoarseness or dry nasal passages
Left untreated, dry mouth can damage your teeth. Without adequate saliva to lubricate your mouth, wash away food, and neutralize the acids produced by plaque, extensive cavities can form.
Your dentist can recommend various methods to restore moisture. For example, sugar-free candy or gum stimulates saliva flow, and moisture can be replaced by using artificial saliva and oral rinses.
Another issue that can affect older adults is a loss of appetite due to a change in your sense of taste. Besides an age-related decrease in the sense of taste and smell, certain diseases, medications and dentures can contribute to a decrease in your sense of taste.
Whether you are suffering from dry mouth or problems with your sense of taste, your dentist will be able to make suggestions to help.
Eating the right food plays an important role in developing healthy teeth and gums.
If your diet lacks certain nutrients, it may be more difficult for tissues in your mouth to fight infection and this can contribute to gum disease.
Although poor nutrition does not cause gum disease directly, the disease may progress faster and could be more severe in people with diets which are low in nutrients.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture makes recommendations on the nutrients, vitamins and minerals needed by your body – including your teeth and gums – to promote health and prevent disease.
We have different needs at various stages life and depending on our physical activity. The DOA website provides more information and your dentist will be able to discuss how your diet affects your teeth.
Here are some steps you can take to make sure what you eat doesn’t harm your teeth.
– Maintain a healthy diet
– Drink plenty water
– Limit the number of between-meal snacks. When you must snack, choose nutritious foods that are low in sugar
– Keep a food diary for a week recording every item you eat and drink
It will also help if you brush your teeth twice a day and floss regularly. Schedule regular dental checkups and professional cleanings and talk to your dentist about how your diet affects your teeth.
You’ve probably heard people talking about plaque and maybe you’ve some idea of what it is.
But it’s useful to know a bit more about it so that you can do what’s necessary to minimize the risks.
Plaque is a sticky film of bacteria that forms on teeth and gums.
When you’ve eaten a meal or snack, the bacteria in plaque release acids that attack tooth enamel. When this happens regularly, the enamel can weaken. This eventually leads to tooth decay.
The food we eat often causes plaque bacteria to produce acids. So, if you eat a lot of snacks, your teeth may be suffering acid attacks all day.
If you don’t remove the plaque through effective daily brushing and cleaning between the teeth, it can eventually harden into calculus or tartar.
Another effect of plaque is that it also produces substances that irritate the gums, making them red and tender or causing them to bleed easily.
If you want to prevent tooth decay and gum disease, make sure you have a balanced diet and avoid having too many snacks between meals.
When you feel like a snack, go for foods such as raw vegetables, plain yogurt, cheese or a piece of fruit.
When buying dental products, it’s a good idea to look out for the American Dental Association (ADA) Seal of Acceptance.
The first Seal of Acceptance was awarded in 1931 and it’s regarded as an important symbol of a dental product’s safety and effectiveness.
Although the Seal program is strictly voluntary, approximately 100 companies participate in it and they commit significant resources to testing their products in clinical and laboratory conditions.
More than 300 consumer dental products carry the Seal of Acceptance. These include toothpaste, dental floss, manual and electric toothbrushes, mouth rinse and chewing gum.
You can get more information about the seal and how it is awarded for specific products at http://www.ada.org/ada/seal/
This site also contains links to the most current lists of accepted consumer products.