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Oral Health Buzz

Dental Care for Adults: A Lesson in Prevention

Donna Pleis

If you are an adult who thinks that, because your cavity-prone years are behind you, regular dental visits and preventive care aren't as necessary as they were when you were younger, think again. Now that you're older, you're at risk for many dental problems with which you did not have to deal when you were a teenager. Dental care for adults is crucial, and some examples may make you think twice before you cancel your next dental checkup.

Periodontal Disease

After age 35, patients lose more teeth to periodontal disease than to tooth decay. If your home care routine of toothbrushing and flossing has slipped and you have skipped your regular dental cleanings, bacterial plaque and tartar can build up on your teeth. The plaque and tartar can cause damage to your jawbone and support structures. Teeth will start to loosen, and if that is allowed to progress, you could require periodontal surgery or even lose some teeth. The good news is that this is a preventable disease in many cases.

Oral Cancers

According to the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research, men over the age of 40 have the greatest risk for oral cancer. The American Cancer Society (ACS) states that approximately 36,000 people will get cancer of the mouth, tongue or throat area, and the ACS estimates that 6,850 people will die from these cancers. The use of tobacco products and alcohol increases the risk of oral cancer. Most oral cancers are first diagnosed by the dentist during a routine checkup.

Dental Fillings Break Down

Dental fillings have a life expectancy of 8 to 10 years. However, they can last 20 years or longer. When the fillings in your mouth start to break down, food and bacteria can get underneath them. When this happens, decay can go deep into your tooth, affect the nerve and possibly necessitate root canal treatment. If the tooth structure breaks down along with the filling, your only option may be to have a full crown and root canal treatment to restore your tooth.

Temporomandibular Joint Problems

Bite irregularities and oral habits such as grinding teeth can lead to painful temporomandibular joint (TMJ) problems. Many things can cause your bite to shift slightly, but having teeth extracted can cause the teeth in your mouth to shift position significantly and alter bite. After time, the joints that are responsible for the movement of your jaw can be affected and cause pain and locking of your jaw. This is one reason for the importance of dental implants.

If you grind your teeth when you sleep, your dentist can make you a night guard. This appliance takes the stress off your joints. It also helps you stop grinding, which can wear down the enamel on your teeth.

Preventive Maintenance Is the Answer

Preventive maintenance and dental care for adults are as important now as they were just a few years ago. As an adult, you are not immune to dental problems. In addition to maintaining a good home care routine, the best thing you can do is to schedule regular dental checkups and cleanings. Your dentist can closely monitor your oral health and take care of problems before they increase in severity. Remember the words once said by a very wise man: An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

Learn more about periodontal disease in the Colgate Oral Care resources.

Source: Wikimedia Commons

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