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Taking Care of Your Mouth as You Get Older
Henry S Lodge, MD posted:
You might have been ignoring your teeth for a while, but as you pass 50, it's time to wake up on this front. Up until modern times, people used to actually lose teeth, and at very young ages. In fact, one hidden contribution to our increasing longevity, and to health as we get older, is simply the ability to eat a good meal! All the grit, dirt, and sand in our hunter-gatherer diets ground down our teeth by the time we were 25. Things got a bit better once we figured out farming, but tooth decay and gum disease still left most people with big problems by the time they were through their 30s. (Remember George Washington and his wooden dentures?)

We take dental health for granted now, but both gum disease and tooth decay are major problems of aging, and largely preventable. Gum disease is a misery. Increasingly it has been correlated with heart disease, though whether it is causative or just a correlation remains unclear. But regardless of how gum disease may affect other areas, the problems of expensive, painful, and protracted dental work -- and the chance of ending up in dentures -- is certainly enough to prompt action.

Flossing and regular brushing both have their role, but review the techniques with your dental hygienist next time you go in for a check-up. Brushing too hard with a stiff bush can actually damage your gums, and the flossing is to remove the particles from between your teeth, not to saw into your gums and cause bleeding! A soft tooth brush and regular preventive visits to your dentist are your best option.

Oral health is a frequently overlooked component of your long-term basic health strategy, but some preventative attention now will pay off in the long run. As much as you will want to smell the roses later in life, eating the fresh corn growing beside them will be even better!

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