AUS: 1300 630 488    NZ: 0800 1477 6287

Keep on smiling

As we age, dental health becomes more important than ever, and there are some changes we need to make to ensure our teeth age as well as the rest of us.

Keeping your teeth in tip-top condition is about more than using your toothbrush and dental floss twice a day.

Data from Dental Health Services Victoria shows more seniors are keeping their natural teeth as they age. The number of dentures provided by Victorian public dental clinics to individuals over 65 years showed a 21 per cent drop over an eight-year period. While it’s good news, it doesn’t mean you can hit cruise control on your dental care.

“As people get older, the need for dental care increases,” explains Dr Deborah Cole, Dental Health Services Victoria CEO. “Older people are keeping their teeth longer and we hope this trend will continue.”

One way to help keep your teeth in top form is to watch what you eat and drink. Here are six ways good eating and drinking habits can help keep a healthy smile on your dial as you age.

1. Limit sugary and acidic food and drink

Many common foods have sugar in them, and eating foods that are high in sugar can cause tooth decay. And while we might think of the usual suspects such as cakes, biscuits and chocolates, even so-called health snacks, such as fruit juices and muesli bars, can be bad for your teeth. Eliminating these from your diet can improve your chances of keeping your natural teeth. And definitely avoid adding those teaspoonfuls of sugar to drinks, such as your daily afternoon cuppa.

2. Avoid snacking between meals

If you can’t resist the odd biscuit or cake, you’ll reduce the possibility of tooth decay by having them with meals rather than eating them between meals. If you must snack between meals, you’re better off munching on some cheese, nuts, apples, carrots or celery.

3. Limit alcoholic beverages

Alcohol can contribute to tooth decay and dry mouth and is a risk factor for oral cancers – three good reasons to switch to an occasional tipple rather than
making it a daily habit.

4. Drink plenty of tap water

About 25 per cent of older people experience a dry mouth because they aren’t producing enough saliva. Having a dry mouth can increase the risk of developing tooth decay. Saliva washes food away and reduces the amount of bacteria that causes decay; it also helps rebuild enamel.

If you’re experiencing a dry mouth, it helps to avoid anything that may make it worse. This includes caffeine, alcohol, cigarettes and spicy foods.

Many medications commonly taken by people as they age, including some blood-pressure medications, can reduce the production of saliva as well.

If you’re on medication, check with your doctor or a pharmacist as to whether it may be contributing to your dry mouth. If so, your doctor may be able to change or reduce your medication.

It’s important to drink tap water rather than the bottled variety for the sake of your dental health. In most places in Australia, tap water contains fluoride. Fluoride helps to safeguard your teeth by slowing the breakdown of enamel caused by acids in foods and helping to rebuild enamel.

5. Check on your medications

Another reason to keep an eye on your medications is because of their possible sugar content. Ask your doctor if any medications you are taking are sugar-free.

If there is no sugar-free option available, make a habit of rinsing your mouth out with water after taking your medication.

6. Chew on sugar-free gum

Keeping some sugar-free chewing gum handy can be another way of helping to keep your teeth in good condition. Chewing on sugar-free gum after meals has been shown to help with the production of saliva.