Many of our grandparents didn’t make it to senior citizen-hood with a full set of teeth. Maybe yours would delight (or shock) you by taking out their dentures to place in a cup before bedtime, revealing a toothless grin. But with an emphasis on early dental care by the American Dental Association (ADA) and fluoride added to our tap water 70 years ago, that’s changed dramatically. Many of us remember those visits in grade school with the red plaque disclosure tablets to learn how to brush teeth properly.
Today, the ADA, CDC, and other medical professionals work hard at instilling proper oral hygiene from as early as the appearance of a baby’s first tooth. According to Ralph Katz, a professor at NYU College of Dentistry, “Baby Boomers were the first generation to grow up with fluoridated water…but maintaining a mouthful of teeth is more complex, and costly, than wearing dentures.” As Boomers transition into retirement with 70% lacking dental insurance, it’s critical to reeducate yourself on how to best care for your pearly whites.
Ten tooth tips to give your mouth (and pocketbook) a reason to smile, as recommended by the ADA:
Brush your teeth at least twice a day with a soft toothbrush and fluoride toothpaste.
Floss, especially before bedtime.
How’s that again? You’re never too old to be reminded, when brushing teeth, it’s small circular motions on the surface, in front, behind and remember to brush your tongue and the roof of your mouth. Rinse your mouth and your toothbrush well with water afterwards.
Bye-bye dry mouth. As we get older, our mouths don’t produce as much saliva and certain medications might make our mouth more dry. Saliva is the number one protection against cavities. Other causes include mouth breathing. Talk to your dentist and doctor to rule out other medical causes. The ADA’s treatment suggestions include: salivary rinses and lozenges, upping your water intake, using a humidifier, and avoiding alcohol and caffeine which may only exacerbate the problem.
Kick bad mouth habits: tobacco products, teeth grinding (get fitted for a mouth guard), chewing ice.
Eat a well-balanced diet with plenty of fresh vegetables and fruit over sugary sweets.
Drink tap water. With the trend of drinking bottled water in recent years, many people aren’t getting as much exposure to fluoride in their water.
Consider an electric toothbrush for a better clean.
Consider dental insurance. If you lack dental insurance, look at options in your area and consider what makes sense for you. Like any type of insurance, the mere peace of mind might be worth the cost.
Use your mouth to speak up. Rather than passively sitting on the sidelines being angry that you don’t have dental coverage, take action. The ADA offers ways consumers can make their voices heard especially in an era of health reform.
Caring for your teeth is good for your mouth, your overall health, and your bottom line.