According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, although more adults are keeping their teeth, many continue to need dental treatment. Members of some racial and ethnic groups report even worse oral health and an unmet need for dental treatment. In addition, some adults may have difficulty accessing dental treatment. For every adult aged 19 years or older without medical insurance, there are three who don’t have dental insurance.
Oral health problems in adults include the following:
- Untreated tooth decay
- Gum disease
- Tooth loss
- Oral cancer
- Chronic diseases
To make sure you keep your teeth healthy and strong for a lifetime, follow these tips provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention:
- Drink fluoridated water and brush with fluoride toothpaste.
- Practice good oral hygiene. Brush teeth thoroughly twice a day and floss daily between the teeth to remove dental plaque.
- Visit your dentist at least once a year, even if you have no natural teeth or have dentures.
- Do not use any tobacco products. If you smoke, quit.
- Limit alcoholic drinks.
- If you have diabetes, work to maintain control of the disease. This will decrease risk for other complications, including gum disease. Treating gum disease may help lower your blood sugar level.
- If your medication causes dry mouth, ask your doctor for a different medication that may not cause this condition. If dry mouth cannot be avoided, drink plenty of water, chew sugarless gum, and avoid tobacco products and alcohol.
- See your doctor or a dentist if you have sudden changes in taste and smell.
Making Dental Treatment Decisions with Your Dentist
There are many things to consider when making a decision with your dentist about preventing and treating a cavity in a permanent molar. Your provider may visit with you about several options that include:
- Dental sealants
- Fluoride treatment
- Preventive resin restoration
- Silver diamine fluoride
- Filling materials
- Root canal
The Maryland Oral Health Program has developed a resource to assist adults with making decisions about how to treat and prevent cavities in permeant molars.
Thorough cleanings by a dentist or hygienist will remove most external staining caused by food and tobacco. Using a whitening toothpaste can also help remove these surface stains between dental visits. If stains have been present for years, you may need to have your teeth professionally whitened to remove these more stubborn external stains.
Internal stains can be bleached, bonded or capped (crowned). While each of these methods is safe and effective, your dentist will recommend which treatment is appropriate for you depending on the state of your teeth and the results that you wish to achieve.
Diet and Oral Health
In addition to greatly affecting your overall health, proper nutrition is necessary for healthy teeth and gums. Eating a well-balanced diet gives your gum tissues and teeth the important nutrients and minerals they need to stay strong and resist infections, which can contribute to gum disease. In addition, firm, fibrous foods such as fruits and vegetables tend to help clean the teeth and tissues. Soft, sticky foods tend to remain on the grooves and between teeth, producing more plaque.
Each time you consume foods and drinks that contain sugars or starches, the bacteria in plaque produce acids that attack your teeth for 20 minutes or more. To reduce damage to your tooth enamel, limit the number or between meal snacks and drinks. And when you do snack, choose nutritious foods such as cheese, raw vegetables, plain yogurt or fruit.