Midlife, for most people, can mean facing a number of new and unusual problems, ranging from weight gain and health challenges to self-doubt and questioning just about everything in life that's led up to this point. Teeth are no exception to the midlife stage of crisis, and if you're not careful, dental issues can really catch up with you. Don't add to your already full midlife agenda by overlooking oral health; know what to expect and how to act in your own best interests, instead.
Common Dental Problems In Middle Age And Beyond
Dental wellness is a crucial aspect of your overall health, and despite being unbelievably durable, your teeth will start to show signs of aging. Being aware of what you can expect should put you in the position to stay on top of the little things so they don't become major complications:
- Surface erosion: By midlife or even earlier, teeth can become worn out to the point where they affect your ability to chew comfortably, especially if you grind your teeth, chew hard candy and ice, or have any dental defects, such as enamel hypoplasia, a condition that leaves a person with little or no protective enamel. Be aware of the current state of your teeth, and ask your dentist what habits you need to break to decrease the likelihood of further erosion.
- Progressive gum disease: If you're experiencing bleeding gums, bad breath, receding or discolored gums, or even feel as if some teeth are coming loose, you might have gum disease, which can be more prevalent as you age. Take care to rinse with an antibacterial mouthwash and have your gums examined regularly. Gums may also offer early indications of some oral cancers your dentist can spot, making annual appointments even more important to you.
- Sensitive teeth: Compounding issues might cause your teeth to become more sensitive than in your younger years, so bring this up with the hygienist, and they'll investigate further, offering helpful recommendations for the discomfort.
- Acidic erosion: Certain foods and beverages are not as kind to your teeth as others, making it necessary for you to avoid things with excess acid, like soda, citrus, and more.
- Prescription-related problems: If you're taking certain medications, this may result in dental complications you'll need to get ahead of before any real damage is done. For example, some medicines can cause dry mouth, an annoying scenario that leaves your mouth with less saliva. Since you need the saliva to clean teeth and kill potentially harmful bacteria, you want to work with your dentist before the meds can pose a real threat to your oral health. Saliva contains an important protein called histatin that not only attacks bacteria, but aids in healing as well.
When You Have A Real Dental Emergency On Your Hands
Simply experiencing midlife dental changes doesn't automatically mean you're facing a dental emergency; however, you may be more prone to emergencies the older your teeth and gums get. It's important to recognize a problem as soon as it arises and to know exactly what you should do about it:
- A severe toothache: Depending on the cause, a toothache may or not be an actual emergency, but if you're in unbearable pain, call your dentist. If the underlying cause is emergency-related, they'll take quick action and if not, offer you some relief.
- A broken/chipped tooth: Even if a broken or chipped tooth doesn't result in further complications, it's something you want fixed ASAP, lest you endure having a tragically comical smile for the rest of your life. Save the broken-off part of the tooth and report to your dental office quickly. Should any bleeding occur, pack the area with clean gauze before heading out.
- Disappearing filling: Fillings, especially those that have been in for many years, can start to come apart and fall out completely. You may notice a gritty texture on your tongue, empty space on the tooth or even not really notice anything at all until after the filling is gone. This situation should be considered an emergency, as the missing filling exposes a hole in your tooth that could lead directly to nerves. Avoid eating and drinking if possible and see a dental professional who offers emergency dental services as soon as you can schedule an appointment.
- A lost crown: When a crown falls out, you're not just vulnerable, but your mouth also looks particularly odd, and both of these predicaments should motivate you to seek emergency dental services. Even if you have dental cement on hand and can reattach the crown, it's likely to keep falling off until a professional attends to it.
- Bleeding gums: Hormonal changes may lead to excessive gum bleeding, as will untreated gum disease, and while this isn't usually an immediate emergency, you should make your dentist aware of it at once so you can attempt to correct the problem.
Unfortunately, just when you're old enough to feel like you've earned your right to really own your life, a lot of things begin to fall apart on you. That doesn't mean, however, that you won't be able to nip problems in the bud and situate your highest priorities. Understand what's going on with your body, including inside your mouth, and take the measures that will minimize the full impact of middle age so you're able to live life to the fullest.