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SENIOR DIETS AND ROOT DECAY

August 14th, 2014

The good news is that we’re all living longer. But with this longer life come some challenges to keep our bodies healthy to enjoy these additional years. Among these challenges is the drive to keep our natural teeth.

It has been shown that individuals with their own teeth are generally healthier and eat a more varied diet. The factors that lead to problems are the same throughout our lives; Inadequate oral hygiene, too frequent consumption of carbohydrates (as discussed below), and not enough fluoride to help strengthen teeth. In older individuals, this is often complicated by receding gums that expose more of the roots of the teeth. These surfaces are not covered by enamel and are often more susceptible to decay.

The diet factors may relate to the circumstances of later life. Retired people may tend to eat and snack more often as the pace of their life slows. These snacks are often high in carbohydrate (sugar) and soft and sticky in consistency. This promotes growth of plaque, which then causes decay on the more susceptible exposed root surfaces.
This can be avoided. Keep sugary and other high carbohydrate snacks to a minimum, make sure to brush thoroughly all the way down to the gum line to remove plaque several times a day, and use an approved fluoride toothpaste. Your dentist may help by prescribing a higher strength fluoride gel or toothpaste. You also need to keep regular checkup appointments to diagnose any problems early.
By the way, receding gums are not a normal result of aging as once thought. Most commonly, the recession is a result of chronic gum disease but it can also be affected by heavy function, teeth that are crowded or out of position, or even trauma to the gums from accident or a repeated habit such as toothpick chewing. Over-brushing, especially with a stiff brush can also leave gum damage behind. Gentle thorough cleaning is all that is needed for continued health.

From the desk of Dr. Stuart F. Fass, D.D.S.

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