Why You Should Consider Preventive Dentistry Visits When You're Older

Preventive dentistry is important at any age but as you get older, it can make a difference between keeping your natural teeth and needing artificial tooth replacements. With appropriate preventive dentistry, losing your teeth doesn’t have to be a part of aging. About 75% of people over age 65 have at least some of their natural teeth.

Common physical and lifestyle changes make older adults more susceptible to specific types of oral health problems. Preventive dentistry includes a combination of self-care, twice-yearly checkups, and education to offset these threats. 

Taking a proactive approach to older adult dental care is a key concern for our dentists at Rifkin Dental in Yorktown Heights and Carmel, New York. With extensive experience in caring for older adults, our dental team provides caring and professional preventive dentistry targeted to the dental issues that occur as we age. 

The preventive dentistry specialists at Rifkin Dental can help you identify and treat oral conditions before they become severe. Find out more about ways that preventive dentistry can benefit you as you age.

Fight cavities

As a senior adult, you have a higher risk of tooth decay than school-age children. The professional dental cleaning you get at your dental checkup supports your twice-daily brushing and flossing at home. 

The deep-down cleaning removes plaque, a bacteria-filled film that sits on your teeth. Without treatment, this substance turns into tartar and causes cavities and gum disease. When tartar exists, your dentist removes it with a scraper before it causes decay.

Attending scheduled dental checkups gives your dentist time to identify signs of wear-and-tear on existing fillings or the start of tooth decay when proactive treatment can prevent tooth loss. This may involve the use of digital X-rays to examine your tooth roots and jawbone. 

Having a dental checkup as an older adult may also reveal signs of dry mouth, a common cause of cavities among older adults. While it’s not a normal part of aging, dry mouth is a side effect of many health conditions and more than 500 medications, including drugs prescribed for high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and Alzheimer’s disease. 

Dry mouth threatens your teeth because saliva helps remove food and debris from your teeth and neutralizes acids to prevent tooth decay. If you have dry mouth, your dentist recommends ways to stimulate saliva production such as chewing sugarless candy, requesting medication changes, or applying a fluoride gel to protect your teeth. 

Making time for preventive dentistry helps you learn more about protecting your teeth from cavities with a healthy diet and proper brushing techniques. If problems such as arthritis prevent you from brushing your teeth appropriately, your dentist discusses effective modifications. 

Identify signs of gum disease

A routine preventive dental checkup includes an assessment of your risk for gum disease, or periodontal disease. Gum disease occurs more often with age because your gums naturally recede as you get older. It’s also associated with conditions such as cancer, diabetes, and anemia, which occur more often with age.

When gum disease begins, you may not realize it exists because the condition typically progresses painlessly until it becomes severe. When left untreated, gum disease causes your gums to pull away from your teeth, creating pockets where food particles and bacteria can collect. These substances can eventually deteriorate the structures that hold your teeth in place, including your gums, ligaments, and supporting bones, resulting in tooth loss.

Your dentist determines your risk of gum disease by measuring the size of the gap between your gum line and each tooth. If there’s an indication of tooth decay, your dentist advises next steps to prevent permanent damage and potential tooth loss. 

Prevent oral cancer and other diseases

Preventive dentistry can play a significant role in reducing your risk of oral and oropharyngeal cancers, conditions that affect almost 54,000 newly diagnosed Americans annually. The average age of diagnosis for these cancers is 62. 

Oral and oropharyngeal cancers have a five-year survival rate of 65%, lower than other cancers because they are often discovered after they’ve spread to other locations in the body. While these cancers can cause red or white patches in your mouth, most people don’t notice them in their early stages because they’re typically painless.

Your dentist works to prevent these conditions by conducting a simple visual screening during your routine checkup. This can identify oral and oropharyngeal cancers in their earliest stages when treatment is most successful.

Your dentist may recognize signs of other potentially life-threatening conditions like diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and thyroid disease during your dental exam. More than 90% of all systemic diseases may produce symptoms, such as swollen gums or mouth ulcers, that can be identified during routine dental exams. 

Don’t ignore the role of preventive dentistry in protecting the health of your mouth and your overall well-being. Schedule a consultation by calling our Yorktown Heights or Carmel office today.

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