Though losing teeth and getting dentures as we aged was commonplace in the past, it should not be expected as we move into the future.

In an article from U.S. News & World Report, Dr. Elisa Ghezzi, geriatric dentist and past chair of the Coalition for Oral Health for the Aging, says that, “common misconceptions about aging teeth can act as barriers to the best dental self-care.” The article also states that, if older adults practice good oral hygiene and continue to seek regular dental care, intact teeth, healthy gums and pain-free smiles should be expected. 

Dr. Ghezzi believes that is important to keep the following recommendations in mind:

  • Cavities aren't just for kids. Evidence is clear that loss of teeth, or edentulism, is decreasing among older Americans, says Dr. Renée Joskow, the chief dental officer with the Health Resources and Services Administration. "People are retaining their teeth and keeping them longer," she says. Therefore, they could be at risk for cavities, she adds.
  • Don't wait for pain. Waiting for patients to start complaining of pain before doing root-surface procedures isn't a good approach for older adults in their 70s and beyond, says Ghezzi, as pain perception changes with age.
  • Teeth shouldn't soften. It's not true that teeth naturally become softer with age. "If you have bone loss, you have periodontal disease or your teeth are breaking up because there's decay," Ghezzi says.
  • Gum bleeding? Don't stop brushing. Bleeding gums are a sign of infection and an indication that oral hygiene isn't ideal, Ghezzi says. Caregivers may be reluctant to brush people's teeth when bleeding occurs, she notes. However, she says, "It's going to bleed when you start – keep cleaning until it stops and gets healthy again."
  • Nutrition suffers with dental problems. It's a myth that missing teeth or faulty dentures make people eat less, Ghezzi says. Instead, they choose softer foods like doughnuts and avoid healthier choices like salads, raw carrots and apples. When loose lower dentures impair function, she says, implants help clasp them in place. Strategically located implants to replace missing teeth can allow better chewing, she says, so people eat in a more nutritious way.

Read the full article: Healthy Aging: Oral Health for Older Adults

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