Taking care of your teeth and mouth
National Institute on Aging | Apr 13, 2012, 10:41 a.m.
No matter how old you are, you need to take care of your teeth and mouth. When your mouth is healthy, you can eat the foods you need for good nutrition. You will also feel better about smiling, talking and laughing. Teeth are meant to last a lifetime. By taking good care of your teeth and gums, you can protect them for many years.
Teeth are covered in a hard, outer coating called enamel. Every day, a thin film of bacteria builds up on your teeth. Over time, the bacteria can cause holes in the enamel. These holes are called cavities. Brushing and flossing your teeth can protect you from decay, but once a cavity happens, a dentist has to fix it.
You can protect your teeth from decay by using fluoride toothpaste. If you have a lot of tooth decay, your dentist or dental hygienist may give you a fluoride treatment during an office visit. Or, the dentist may tell you to use a fluoride gel or mouth rinse at home.
Gum disease begins when plaque builds up along and under the gum line. This plaque causes infections that hurt the gum and bone that hold teeth in place. Sometimes gum disease makes your gums tender and more likely to bleed. This problem is called gingivitis, and it can often be fixed by daily brushing and flossing.
Other gum diseases need to be treated by a dentist. If not treated, these infections can ruin the bones, gums and other tissues that support your teeth. Over time, your teeth may have to be removed.
To prevent gum disease:
· Brush your teeth twice a day with fluoride toothpaste.
· Floss once a day.
· Visit your dentist regularly for a checkup and cleaning.
· Eat a well-balanced diet.
·Quit smoking. Smoking increases your risk for gum disease.
One condition that can cause problems with the health of your teeth and gums is dry mouth. Dry mouth happens when you don’t have enough saliva to keep your mouth wet sometimes making it difficult to eat, swallow, taste and even speak. Dry mouth can also cause tooth decay and other infections of the mouth.
The most common cause of dry mouth is medications. To help with this condition, try sipping water or sugarless drinks. Stay away from drinks with caffeine. Don’t smoke and avoid alcohol. Some people have found that sucking sugarless hard candy or chewing sugarless gum can help. Talk to your dentist or doctor for other ideas on how to cope with dry mouth.
Provided by the National Institute on Aging.
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