Almost all adults have problems with oral health at some point in their lives. In the U.S., one in four adults has untreated tooth decay. Nearly half of all adults have gum disease.
Untreated gum disease or tooth decay may lead to pain, infection, tooth loss, difficulty eating, bad breath and the need for complex dental procedures to treat the teeth.
Tooth decay is damage from germs eating away at the teeth. Eventually, this may cause cavities to form.
Regular dental visits are the best way to detect tooth decay early, when it is more easily treatable.
Symptoms of tooth decay include:
You are more likely to have tooth decay if you:
Gum disease is an infection that forms when plaque and tartar irritate the gums and cause them to become swollen, tender or infected. Brushing and flossing can help minimize plaque.
Symptoms of gum disease include:
The following factors may increase your risk for developing gum disease:
Oral cancer affects the mouth or throat. Each year, about 800 New Yorkers are diagnosed with oral or throat cancers. The risk for oral cancer increases with age and cases occur twice as often in men as women.
Oral cancer can spread quickly, so a dental exam is important for detecting tumors early, when treatment is most successful. An oral cancer screening is quick and painless. It can be done during your regular dental checkup.
Symptoms of oral cancer include:
Risk factors for oral cancer include:
If you experience any of these symptoms for longer than two weeks, talk to your dentist or health care provider. Visit your dentist regularly for oral cancer screenings and exams, even if you do not have teeth.
Oral Health During Pregnancy
Changes in your body when you are pregnant can cause gingivitis. If gingivitis is not treated, it may lead to loose or separating teeth (periodontitis).
The germs that cause tooth decay can be passed from your mouth to your newborn’s mouth through saliva. Mothers with healthy teeth and gums are less likely to pass these germs to their babies.
Dental care is safe during your entire pregnancy. Delaying dental treatment that you need can put you and your baby at risk.
Adults older than 65 are more likely to experience dental infections, tooth decay on the roots of the teeth, tooth loss, oral cancer, gum disease, dry mouth and fungal infections.
It is possible to keep your natural teeth for a lifetime if you brush, floss and visit your dentist regularly.
A few more tips to help older adults have healthy teeth: