Caring for Your Oral Health as You Age
As you grow older, there are many different health measures you should take to ensure you live a happy, healthy life. Many patients don’t think about their risk of developing oral conditions, such as gum disease or oral cancer, and how these diseases can deteriorate your health. Here are some conditions to be mindful of as you age:
While you may think that cavities are a child’s punishment for eating too much sugar, cavities are a real problem for many aging adults. As we grow older, we enter a second cavity-prone phase, which can actually be made worse due to many common medications.
More than 500 medications, including those for allergies or asthma, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, pain, anxiety or depression, Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s diseases, can contribute to cavity formation.
With busy work schedules, school schedules for the kids, and major life events happening, it can be easy for adults to miss signs of unhealthy gums. Gum disease, or periodontal disease, is a relatively painless condition. It begins with pink or red gums, which eventually become swollen and bleed. If the condition advances, it can cause tooth decay and eventually, even tooth loss.
Additionally, having dry mouth for a prolonged period of time can cause you to struggle with tooth decay, gum disease, thrush, or another infection. If left untreated, you could also lose teeth or damage your jawbone, which could require additional surgical or restorative treatment to resolve.
Gum recession is far more common than one would believe. Sometimes people are a bit too vigorous with their teeth brushing technique, or they use the wrong type of toothbrush. These actions erode the gums over time.
If left untreated, some foods, such as those with high sugar content, can actually become painful to chew on the side of the exposed root. In an extreme scenario, gum recession can ultimately lead to tooth loss. To prevent irreparable damage to the teeth, dentists and periodontists normally recommend a gum graft procedure to help stop the additional recession and protect the already exposed root.
Oral cancer is cancer found in the mouth area, while oropharyngeal cancer is cancer found in the oropharynx (the throat area at the back of the mouth).
According to the American Cancer Society, here are the most recent estimates for oral cavity and oropharyngeal cancers in the United States for 2021:
- About 54,010 people will get oral cavity or oropharyngeal cancer.
- An estimated 10,850 people will die of these cancers.
- Men are twice as likely as women to develop oral cancer.
- Over the past 30 years, the death rate for these cancers has decreased.
- The most common age for an oral cancer diagnosis is 62.
- Oral cancer is rare in younger patients and children, but still possible.
According to the American Society of Clinical Oncology, chewing tobacco or snuff is associated with a 50% increase in cancer risk in the cheeks, gums, and inner surface of the lips. Several studies have also linked patients with gum disease to an increased risk of oral cancer. This is why taking proper care of your smile is essential not just to your dental health but also to your overall health.
Several factors can lead to oral cancer, but a patient’s age is the most common. The other most common risk factors of oral cancer include:
- Tobacco use.
- Alcohol use.
- Marijuana use.
- Patients with HPV.
- Patients 45 years and older.
- Patients who have fair skin.
- Patients with a poor diet.
- Prolonged sun exposure.
- Patients with graft-versus-host disease.
- Patients who are immunocompromised.
- Patients that have a genetic predisposition or syndrome.
- Gender (men are more prone to oral cancer than women).
Protecting Your Oral Health
Just as you take other health measures, such as eating a balanced diet and exercising, it’s important to stay on top of your dental health by brushing, flossing, and visiting the dentist. At Frisco's Dentists, Dr. Neal provides dental care for the whole family, including the elderly and children. To book your first appointment with our team, contact us at: (972) 200-0656