No one wants to think about aging, but we all have to face it at some point in our lives. We all get old, and with it comes a whole bunch of changes in our bodies, minds, and our mouths. The oral care requirement for aging patients is different than it is for younger people, yet so many of us fail to take that into account when planning our daily oral care routines.
We see plenty of older New Albany residents at our office, and there are always a few tips we can give them to improve their oral health. One of the most important parts of aging is preventing a dry mouth, something that affects almost every aging person. The importance of saliva can’t be stated enough!
What Does Saliva Do?
Your mouth’s natural moisturizing system is good for a lot more than just helping you chew food. It’s responsible for keeping your mouth healthy and clean too.
Saliva is almost all water, but the remaining few percent, made up of enzymes, antibacterial compounds, and other helpful things, makes it essential for oral health. When you eat any foods containing sugar the oral bacteria in your mouth goes into full-on attack mode, transforming that sugar into acids that eat away at your teeth and irritate your gums. Saliva fights back against plaque bacteria by neutralizing acids, killing bacteria, and helping your mouth wash away food particles that fuel the destruction.
While a healthy amount of saliva won’t prevent damage it does keep it under control and aid in continued oral health. Without it your mouth would be a mess of bacteria, cavities, and bleeding gums.
What Happens When You Don’t Have Enough Saliva?
Have you ever had a dry mouth that left you feeling like your tongue and teeth were covered in a sticky, gross slime? That’s a bunch of extra oral bacteria spreading like mad because there isn’t enough saliva in your mouth.
Having a dry mouth makes it much easier for oral bacteria to spread since there isn’t enough liquid to wash it away. That means bad breath, more cavities, a higher chance of gum disease, and a mouth saturated in plaque acids that destroy a healthy mouth.
This state is an unfortunate reality for a lot of us as we age. Our salivary glands simply don’t produce as much as they used to when we get older, and when you combine that with daily prescriptions and other health conditions that make things worse you have a recipe for disaster!
The Easiest Way To Stimulate Saliva Production
Dentists have been recommending sugarless gum for a long time, and now many are starting to see the benefit of regular gum chewing for older patients with dry mouths too. Chewing stimulates saliva production even in the most dry of mouths, and chewing sugar-free gum is a great way to up production and clear away bacteria.
Gum, especially when chewed after a meal, is a great way to freshen your mouth. It picks up food particles, bacteria, and acid. What it doesn’t pick up gets washed away by the increased amount of saliva you’re creating.
We recommend gum sweetened with xylitol. Not only is it just as sweet as gum containing sugar, but xylitol is actually able to fight oral bacteria as well. It inhibits the ability of bacteria to eat sugar, and can actually kill some strains completely. Xylitol can also prevent bacteria from sticking to your teeth, making it easier for saliva to wash it away.
Gum Isn’t Enough By Itself
Chewing sugar-free gum can be a great boost to your oral health, especially if you’re suffering from a chronic dry mouth. It’s not enough on its own to keep your mouth healthy, though, so be sure you’re taking good care of your smile in the following ways:
- Always brush twice a day before meals. The less bacteria is in your mouth before you eat the less damage that can be done to your teeth. Don’t brush after you eat – plaque acids weaken your enamel and make it easier to damage your teeth with your brush.
- Floss every night – that’s not an option! Floss removes bacteria from the sensitive spaces between your teeth were gum disease and decay are more likely to form. It only takes 24 hours for bacteria to irritate your gums, so do everything you can to minimize the damage.
- Make sure you’re seeing the dentist twice a year. Regular preventive appointments are an essential part of maintaining a healthy mouth.
We Can Help
Keeping smiles in peak condition is what we do at New Albany Implants. If you have any questions about your dental care you can contact us at (888) 469-3982 or you can request an appointment online. We look forward to helping you!