Smiles Over 65: Oral Health in Your Golden Years

By Karen Weeks, Elderwellness.net

Many people mistakenly believe that missing teeth and poor oral health is simply par for the course of aging. The truth is that you can have healthy teeth and your own natural smile for a lifetime. To make this happen as you enter your retirement years, it may become necessary to pay even closer attention to your mouth. Healthy dental habits, such as brushing and flossing, are a great start, but you also need to get comfortable in the dentist’s chair.

But it Costs so Much …

One of the most pressing issues with seniors today is that dental care is expensive. And those with original Medicare are left to foot the entire bill when their teeth and gums are on the line. There is good news, however, in that you have choices when it comes to your Medicare coverage. Medicare Advantage plans from companies like Humana offer comprehensive health care coverage, and the majority of these private Medicare policies provide a wide assortment of dental benefits. And considering that your oral health can affect other aspects of your well-being, you can’t afford not to see your dentist.

Healthy Habits

If you’re not brushing and flossing at least twice each day, you should. According to the American Dental Association, cleaning your teeth, or dentures, can help keep bacteria out of your mouth. And when it’s not in your mouth, you have less of a chance of it spreading throughout your body. Flossing is likewise important and is the most efficient way to remove solid food particles from between teeth. Dry mouth is a serious concern for many seniors, so you also should make a point to drink plenty of water and quit smoking.

Potential Problems

Even if you establish a healthy oral hygiene routine, there are still issues that can arise. Sensitive teeth, for example, can happen over time with wear and tear. As the enamel on the outside of your teeth wears down, they may feel discomfort when exposed to heat or cold. Enamel is extremely strong, but it can be damaged by aggressive brushing, receding gums, or an acidic or sugary diet.

Cavities also are cause for concern if you don’t make your teeth a priority. Even though your adult teeth are stronger and more able to fight off decay than baby teeth, certain medical conditions, such as arthritis, can leave you less able to give your mouth the attention it deserves. Regardless of age, untreated cavities can cause pain and can make it difficult to eat like you are supposed to.

Health Conditions Can Affect the Teeth

Taking care of your dental health is exceedingly important if you suffer with age-related medical conditions. High blood pressure and diabetes, for example, are known to cause or contribute to gum disease. Obesity and rheumatoid arthritis also are linked to the health of the soft tissues in your mouth. Surprisingly, even less serious conditions, like acid reflux, can wreak havoc on your teeth. Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) can push acid from your stomach into your mouth, and this acid can quickly wear away at your teeth. Stress, depression and many autoimmune diseases also can take a toll. For these reasons, you should make a point to visit your primary care physician for a full physical every year. Between the screenings they’ll offer and your regular dental checkups, your health care team can identify health problems that affect the teeth and vice versa.

It is possible to enjoy a beautiful smile and uninterrupted eating habits throughout your entire life. But it does take work, and a commitment to whole health. If you’re concerned about money, check your Medicare plan and make sure that you are covered.

Ms. Weeks can be reached at karen@elderwellness.net.

Today’s FDA is Online Now!

Today’s FDA Reception Room Issue for patients is available online now! Go to floridadental.org/public/tfda-reception-room-issue to read this issue.

2019 Rec Rm journal online

Many U.S. Adults Unfamiliar With Key Dental Terms, Survey Finds

A new Adult’s Oral Health & Well-Being Survey indicates that a significant portion of the American population is not familiar with certain key dental terms. This unfamiliarity may lead to unease in the dental chair during discussions with your oral health care professional.

The FDA has a Dental Glossary for Patients in the 2019 Reception Room issue of Today’s FDA — coming soon to your FDA member dentist’s office and our website. In the meantime, check it out at bit.ly/2JPJRst.

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4 Ways Your Smile Improves Your Life — and the Lives Around You

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Many people go to the dentist not just because they want good oral health, but also because having a great smile is a good confidence booster and makes them more likely to smile more often. But it also impacts those who see that dazzling smile.

“Every day we see people who tell us about how their friends, family and business colleagues are also affected by their new smiles,” says Dr. Ana Castilla, an orthodontist and author of the book, The Smile of Your Life: Everything You Need to Know for Your Orthodontic Journey. “They are just more willing to smile, and they didn’t anticipate how much that would impact others in their life.”

Studies have shown that people believe smilers are reliable, relaxed and sincere. A study published in the Journal of Neuropsychology reported that seeing an attractive, smiling face activates the orbitofrontal cortex, the region in the brain that processes sensory rewards. This suggests that when someone sees a person smiling, they feel rewarded.

As a result, Dr. Castilla says some of the things a smile can do for you include:

1. Make you more attractive. “Your smile is your best accessory,” Castilla says. “Studies have shown that people who smile are automatically viewed as more attractive, reliable, relaxed and sincere. Seeing an attractive face can be considered a rewarding stimulus, and when a person sees a smiling face, the region of their brain that processes sensory rewards is activated significantly more than when viewing a non-smiling face.”

2. Relieve stress and boost your mood. Science has shown that smiling increases your health and happiness, not just at the moment, but even in the long run, Castilla says. “The more you smile, the healthier and happier you will be,” she says. How so? When you smile, your brain releases signaling molecules called neuropeptides to the rest of your body, she says. These neuropeptides influence your brain, body and behavior in many ways, including reducing stress, aiding sleep and elevating your mood.

3. Lower your blood pressure. When you smile, your brain also releases feel-good neurotransmitters, such as dopamine, endorphins and serotonin. These chemicals calm your nervous system by lowering your heart rate and blood pressure. “It’s great to know that even when you skip out on going to the gym, you can still work on your health by smiling away,” Castilla says. “Although, I don’t recommend skipping the gym.”

4. Help you make others happy. Smiling not only has the power to elevate your mood, but also can change the moods of others. “If you’re grumpy or rude, then you’re likely to put others in a bad mood or even put them off,” Castilla says. “The same thing happens with laughter and smiling. What happens when you smile at someone? They smile back, of course. Even babies know what to do. Smile at a baby and they will smile right back at you.”

“A beautiful smile is so much more than just straight teeth,” Castilla says. “It is health, confidence and joy. It is what you display during the happiest moments of your life, such as when you graduate from school, get married or your child is born. It is a reflection of your spirit, and make no mistake, it can change your life.”

Reprinted with permission from Castilla Orthodontics. The original post can be found here.