Do I really have to worry about my teeth at my age?
That is a valid question, and only answered accurately if you know how long you will be living. That may sound like a glib response but the health of our mouth means much more than only being cavity free.
We are one of the first generations who have had the resources to allow us to maintain all or most of our natural teeth. We have had regular preventions visits with our dental hygienists and have restored teeth when they did have cavities. Some of us have numerous gold or porcelain crowns or even implants to preserve the function of our teeth.
Besides the obvious function of chewing our food, why worry? The palate (roof of the mouth) actually contributes to our enjoyment of the taste of foods. The pleasure of a conversation with others is made possible by our teeth helping to form our speech. Both of these are compromised by a denture that covers the palate. People adapt all the time to this type of change, but speech changes take time for the adaptation and the sense of taste is affected any time the denture is in place.
If you are interested in how your face looks, your teeth matter there also. The back teeth, molars and premolars, help your face maintain “vertical dimension”. When the teeth are missing in back or heavily worn down the cheeks start to sink in and wrinkles form.
Modern medicines have made it possible for us to live with the proper blood pressure, to control anxiety and depression. Seldom does one meet another person over 50 who is not on at least one prescription. There are over 400 prescription medications that reduce our saliva or create a very dry mouth. A lack of saliva can be very dangerous to our teeth. It allows the normal bacteria of the mouth to stick to the teeth much more aggressively.
One of the most effective ways to combat the stickiness of the bacteria is the daily use of oral products containing xylitol. By using very small “servings” several times a day the bacterial plaque is reduced over a relatively short period. For a dry mouth a moisturizing spray containing xylitol can be used as needed, providing comfort and plaque reduction. Toothpaste, candies or gum sweetened with xylitol are easy and effective methods of using xylitol. Studies have shown that six servings a day (in the form of two candies after each meal) greatly reduce the accumulation of the plaque individuals in long term care who have limited abilities to provide their own brushing or flossing.