Plenty of thought, research and energy goes into understanding the effects of ageing on the body. But what about oral health? How does oral health change with ageing and what can be done to manage it?
As with any part of the body, ageing has various effects on the system. Within the oral cavity the first sign of ageing may be as simple as the gums starting to recede exposing the root or neck of the tooth. This exposed root surface contains millions of micropores which when stimulated with temperature changes, acids or mechanical brushing cause sensitivity and pain. The root surface is also more prone to acid erosion, decay and mechanical abrasion as it isn’t covered by the enamel like the crown of the tooth is.
Salivary changes tend to occur through ageing primarily via the effects of polypharmacy. Many of the medications prescribed for common ailments such as blood pressure, diabetes, cholesterol, heart conditions and allergies (among others) all have the effect of causing dry mouth. Saliva’s role in the mouth is multifaceted -remineralising softened tooth structures, buffering acids in the mouth, antifungal properties and aiding in food digestion. When saliva composition and flow rate change, the effects can be catastrophic. We see increased rates of dental decay, dry mouth, burning mouth syndrome, dental erosion, halitosis, oral candida infestations and gingivitis/periodontitis.
Brittle enamel develops as the mouth becomes dryer and many of the teeth may begin to fail. This can result in further extensive and costly treatment or worse yet, tooth loss. As more teeth are lost, an individual will experience changes to diet to help compensate for lack of chewing force and function. Softer, poorer food types are incorporated into the diet which can negatively impact general health and wellbeing.
Finally the development of systemic diseases tends to increase as an individual ages; these can have a bidirectional effect on oral health. For example – an individual who develops diabetes will find their risk for severe gum disease will now increase. An individual developing a congestive heart condition would be required to maintain good oral health to prevent it affecting the heart condition and treatment. Many diseases including osteoporosis, arthritis, sleep apnoea, COPD and cancer treatment/management all have detrimental effects on oral health if not managed correctly.
The great news is that the effects of ageing on the oral cavity can be minimised or mitigated with good care and prevention. It involves identifying the risk factors, managing and eliminating where possible and initiating great preventive measures to ensure the oral cavity remains pristine throughout life. As with any form of prevention though, the sooner you start the better the outcome.
Don’t underestimate the importance of your oral health, like general health it is sorely missed once gone.
Please make an appointment today to meet Jason, our Advanced Scope Oral Health Therapist to discuss your Oral Health. 5482 7688.
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