By Amy Hunt
We all know the rules about keeping our teeth and mouth spick, span and healthy. Brush twice a day, for two minutes a time, floss regularly, and try and use mouthwash as much as possible. But eventually, the inevitable sets in -ageing.
It can be disheartening to see our teeth's appearance delcline.But, according to 'The Singing Dentist' (yes, you heard that right!), Dr Milad Shadrooh, getting older doesn't have to mean the end of the road for your pearly whites.
Milad is a qualified practising dentist, and has appeared onThis MorningandGood Morning Britainto discuss teeth health. Hegets his dental health message across in funny music video spoofs, which have proven massively popular online. So we spoke to him to figure out just how much your age can affect the health of your teeth...
The good news, according to Milad, is "your age doesn't actually have to define the way your teeth are".
"I've got 70-year-old patients who have still got all their teeth in there, healthy as anything - it's like they have the mouth of a 30-year-old. But then I've got actual 30-year-olds who have neglected their teeth, and have left them in terrible health."
But inevitably, some issues do arise with our mouths as we get older. So what are they, and how can we fix them?
What are the most common teeth problems as we age?
Wear and tear
"The first issue is usually general wear and tear. There's going to be way more grinding teeth, because we are generally more stressed nowadays, especially as our responsibilities grow. We can grind our teeth in our sleep without knowing it. This wears teeth down and makes them looser than they should be."
"You can also get erosion issues from acidic foods and drinks - fizzy drinks, fruits, which only increases as we get older. And the same problem can occur with overbrushing. We're told to look after our teeth so much these days, that inevitably some people will brush too hard in a bid to get their teeth as clean as possible."
"Older people may have come from a generation that used lots of metal fillings. That's kind of how dentistry was done 30/40 years ago. But those kind of fillings can fracture or break. That's the most common thing I see - patients coming in with cracks or fractures in their teeth, which take time and money to repair."
"Fractured teeth can happen because there are weaks spots on the teeth and over time, with grinding and chewing and putting a lot of force on the teeth. Teeth get brittle over time and as we get older, and one day you might just bite on something in the wrong place, and a shard will just ping off."
What other mistakes do people over 40 make with their teeth?
"As you age, it can be harder to clean your teeth properly, especially if you suffer from pain in your hands, or athritis. This means that people don't brush as well as they should, and plaque can really build up."
"People are different, and it's hard to categorise one specific thing that older people do. But smoking is something the older generations might be more likely to do, because it was just something people did years ago. People who smoke can really effect the health and appearance of their teeth, and their likeliness to actually have any as they get older! So if you're trying to look after your teeth (and your overall health), smoking is a key habit to drop."
Avoiding fixing dentures...
"Another thing people do is avoid the dentist when they have dentures. They think, 'I don't have any teeth anyway, so what does it matter?', but if anything, it matters more. Denture sets need to be replaced. Often people who come and see me will have had their set of dentures for over 50 years, so replacing them never goes well!
"It's also very important to still go because hygenie in the gums and cheeks also needs to be checked regularly, and we can get nasty things growing in our mouth. For example, oral cancer is prevalent. And unfortunately, a lot of elderly patients only come to the dentist once their dentures are loose. But they may have something going on that they don't know about, and by the time they get the care, it's too late, unfortunately."
So what problems can result from all of these, and ageing in general?
"Gum disease is a huge problem, and it is way more prevalant as we age. This is due mostly to ineffective cleaning, so in between teeth. This is something that 90% of people will not do, or miss out. They brush their teeth, but they don't really clean in between.
"Gaps in between teeth are also worsened as we age, as the gum recedes slightly, so the spacing becomes more visible and obvious. Gum recession can also happen because can you're brushing so hard that you're basically brushing the gums away, and they recede. The Dentek brushes are great for that, as they get inbetween gums easily. Using them is something I'd definitely recommend."
"Staining is one of the main problems people come to me with too, as teeth do darken over time. As your teeth wear and your enamel wears your tooth becomes more narrow over time, so the darker core of your tooth will show through more.
"And obviously, the longer you've got your teeth in your mouth, the more they get stained! From coffee, tea, red wine, curries - anything with a very strong colouring. And one solution is whitening. I've got 60/70 year old patients who want whitening done because they look after their teeth, but they just look dark, and that's just because of the ageing process of teeth."
Would you advise teeth whitening in older age?
"It's never too late to whiten your teeth, but you need to have a careful assessment with your dentist before doing so. Teeth need different levels and ways of whitening.Older people generally just want them to look a bit fresher and more youthful, as opposed to brilliant Hollywood white some younger people ask for.
"Whitening strips are okay at removing some staining, but they won't actually whiten the teeth. The eldest age group may not see any benefit from that kind of external staining things, because it won't darken that whiter tooth, so I'd advise against them if you're a bit older. What I would advise is getting it done professionally by a dentist, who can work really closely with you to make sure you really get results."
How can we fix these problems?
"I would always recommend, especially for elder patients, an electric toothbrush to fix the problem of ineffectual brushing. You may not have used one before, but as we age, it is easier. A lot of older patients have arthritis, so they don't have a huge amount of dexterity anymore, and find it difficult to brush with a manual brush.So if you have an electric toothbrush, all you have to do is hold it against their teeth and move it gently from one tooth to the other. It makes it far easier to clean.
"You can also make use of a dental guard to prevent grinding during the night, which in turn with reduce teeth erosion that's so common in older people. The best advice is to visit your dentist for a professional made stint, however if you're suffering in-between visits to the dentist, or if you'd like to try a much cheaper alternative, try...
"It's also vital to brush in between teeth too. Interdental brushes are far easier to use than regular floss, especially as we age, because again the manual dexterity is difficult. These can also help reduce gum disease, and protect against staining and the need for fillings.
"Plus, nothing beats a regular visit to the dentist, to keep an eye on fillings, dentures and general gum health."
Where do we need to be cleaning?
"It's a common misconception that we just need to brush our teeth and we're done. We need to be cleaning all over the mouth - under the tounge, right at the back where it's hard to see, the gums (especially where they meet the teeth). It's the areas you don't generally think to check, but are so important to keep an eye on.
Dr Milad Shadrooh aka The Singing dentist is working with DenTek (
dentekuk.co.uk) to raise awareness of #TeethTalk.
#TeethTalk is a new campaign by DenTek to highlight the importance of adopting a complete oral care routine, in order to maintain healthy teeth and gums, and how DenTek helps make this accessible for everyone.
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