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Dental Health Care for Adults

Reviewed by: Emanuel Finn, DDS, MS
 

As adults, we have had lots of practice brushing, flossing, and rinsing. We feel we know our mouths well, and can spot changes occurring immediately. However, many adults do not practice proper oral hygiene methods on a daily basis, even when they notice changes negatively affecting their mouth. In fact, most tooth loss in people over the age of 35 is due to periodontal disease, and over 40% of North American adults have at least one tooth that could benefit from some form of dental treatment. Ancient cultures chewed on twigs or roots to clean their teeth, but these days dentists prefer you brush your teeth for at least two minutes twice a day, floss before or after each brushing, and rinse, especially at night after you’re done eating and drinking (even water).

Many adults are accustomed to drinking their Starbucks every morning, and/or having a cup of tea in the evening. Other adults smoke or chew tobacco, and some enjoy eating lemons and oranges. Regardless of the habit, it can affect our teeth, gums, and overall dental health. Let’s go over some tips to keep in mind, especially as we continue to age.

Dental Health Care Tips for Adults

Adults should have lots of practice brushing and flossing by the time they are grown. However, many adults do not always remember to do specific things that promote proper oral health. Here are some tips adults should take into consideration:

  • Brushing and flossing twice a day and seeing the dentist twice a year (or as often as they recommend) is ideal.
  • If you cannot get to a toothbrush after eating, sugar-free gum and toothpicks are great alternatives.
  • As we age, so do our teeth. Consuming calcium-enriched foods and beverages such as milk and yogurt can strengthen your bones and teeth.
  • Crunchy foods such as apples naturally clean your teeth.
  • Excessive amounts of coffee, tea, wine, and other beverages can stain your teeth over time.
  • Hard foods (different than crunchy foods) such as popcorn kernels, jawbreakers, and ice can crack or break your teeth if you’re not careful.
  • Chewy foods such as taffy can loosen or dislodge caps, crowns, implants, etc.
  • Toothbrushes should be replaced every 3-4 months, or when the bristles wear down.
  • Technology has come a long way in recent times. New and creative corrective appliances are available for adults who wish to hide their dental corrections. For example, cavities can be filled or refilled with a tooth-colored porcelain instead of the traditional silver amalgam
  • Choose an ADA-accepted toothbrush, toothpaste, floss, and rinse.
  • Avoid sugary foods and drinks, since the sugar immediately turns to acid and begins decaying your teeth.
  • Drink plenty of water that has fluoride, such as water from the tap. Usually, local water supply companies add healthy levels of fluoride to water. You can contact your local water company to learn more about the fluoride levels in your local water.
  • If you have children, ensure they are practicing proper oral hygiene habits.
  • Mouth guards are not made solely for athletes. They are also great for people who grind their teeth during sleep.
  • Gums shouldn’t bleed after brushing. If they are, you may want to seek an opinion from your general dentist or a periodontist.
  • Report to your dentist about any changes in your teeth and gums, including appearance and sensitivity levels to hot and cold. These could be early signs of a major condition or disease.
  • Rinsing with water is considered sufficient if a toothbrush, toothpick, gum, or floss is not available after you eat.
  • Not all teeth whitening treatments work for everybody, especially adults with crooked, broken, or decaying teeth. Talk with your dentist about whitening options available to you.
  • Cosmetic dentistry isn’t always the answer. Sometimes it’s best to improve personal grooming habits before spending thousands of dollars.
  • Dental problems occur in more women than men due to consistent hormone changes throughout life during the menstrual, pregnancy, and menopausal stages. If you are a woman, talk with your dentist about the effects of hormone changes.

5 Common Dental Problems for Adults

Here is a look at some of the most common dental problems adults face:

Gum recession- This can occur for a number of reasons. The recession can be localized to a few teeth, or it can affect all teeth.  The recession affects the roots of the teeth and makes them very sensitive. Different conditions can lead to gum recession such as gum disease and bruxism (teeth grinding). Improperly brushing your teeth throughout your lifetime can also lead to gum damage.

Tooth decay- This is the most common problem for adults. Many times, decayed teeth are the result of untreated dental cavities. Tooth decay can lead to worse problems such as abscessed teeth and periodontal disease.

Discolored teeth- Our teeth begin turning a yellowish color naturally as we age. However, teeth can become discolored for a number of other reasons. Drinking wine and coffee or smoking tobacco throughout your life can stain your teeth. Abnormally high levels of fluoride in drinking water may lead to a condition known as fluorosis (causing white or brown marks on teeth). Your dentist or dental hygienist can treat discolored teeth by cleaning them with a rotary polisher and polishing paste. You can also prevent discolored teeth by limiting your intake of foods, drinks, and substances that may stain your teeth.

Periodontal disease- This condition is also known as gum disease. There are several stages to gum disease, the first being gingivitis. This condition has been linked to other medical conditions such as heart disease. The bacteria that cause periodontitis have been found in the blood stream of some people with gum disease. The bacteria can cause blood platelets to accumulate and bond together, sticking to the arteries and setting the stage for a heart attack or stroke.

Missing teeth- Missing teeth in adults are typically due to injury or decay. However, some permanent teeth never develop after baby teeth are lost. Missing teeth can cause problems such as teeth shifting, crooked teeth, stress on your teeth and jaw, and plaque build-up. Bridges and dentures are typically used in treating missing teeth.

Talking to Your Dentist

Here are some questions you may want to ask your dentist about your dental health:

  • How often should I make an appointment to see you?
  • Which type of toothbrush, toothpaste, rinse, and floss do you recommend for me?
  • Do you think cosmetic dentistry is for me?
  • What dietary changes should I make to prevent future oral problems?
  • If new symptoms appear, how long should I wait to contact you?
  • How can poor oral health affect the rest of my body?
  • How can I prevent dry mouth?
  • My sense of taste is decreased and different, how can I reverse that?
  • Which vitamins are best for my teeth?

Next, read:

Dental Health Care for Kids

Dental Health Care for Seniors

Page updated September 2012

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