Expected Dental Challenges 70-80 Years Old
This is the decade with the highest decay potential in a person’s life. Previously, the teens were considered to be the time of life with the most decay potential. However, with more people keeping their natural teeth until later in life and lower decay rates for young people due to fluoride in the water during the formative years of the teeth, the 70’s has emerged as the decade of most likely occurrence of tooth decay.
Nearly all of the problems that began to present themselves in the 50’s and 60’s intensify in the 70’s. These oral problems include: Decreased salivary flow, increased area of root exposure, decreased manual dexterity, and decreased mouth opening. Decreased salivary flow leads to increased potential for tooth decay on all surfaces of the teeth. Increased area of root exposure causes more chance of tooth sensitivity as well as more tooth structure without the protective enamel covering to potentially become decayed. Decreased manual dexterity causes reduced ability to brush and floss. Decreased mouth opening causes a decreased ability to easily reach areas of the teeth that are susceptible to tooth decay especially in the less accessible areas at the back of the mouth.
It is imperative that maximum fluoride exposure is attained during this decade of life and beyond. At least nightly application of a high dose fluoride gel to the teeth before bed is necessary to reduce decay potential particularly on the roots of the teeth. The fluoride found in a regular tooth paste is 1000 parts fluoride per million parts of tooth paste. While this concentration is often adequate for younger people, a more powerful preparation is needed now that there is more decay potential in the person’s life. A 5000 parts per million fluoride preparation is needed now. These products include Prevident and Pro Dent RX as described previously a couple of times in this series. An electric tooth brush is needed to try to overcome the effects of reduced manual dexterity. All of the surfaces of the teeth still need to be brushed just as before, but roots require special attention because they decay easier than the parts of the tooth that have enamel covering them.
More frequent cleanings will often be needed to keep calculus (tarter) from actively causing bone to disappear around the roots of the teeth. Normally speaking, bone holding the teeth in place cannot be replaced once it has disappeared. Technology has made it possible to sometimes add bone in some locations on some people. However, the best and least expensive way to have adequate bone anchoring the teeth in place is to keep it from disintegrating in the first place. Calculus (tarter) causes bone to slowly reduce itself around the roots of the teeth. This causes root exposure with its often increased sensitivity, and also causes a much increased decay potential wherever the exposed roots are present. Tarter always starts out as soft plaque. If the plaque is removed while it is soft, it cannot transform into tarter. A person cannot remove tarter himself at home once it has formed. A professional cleaning is needed to remove tarter. Decreased ability to clean soft plaque off the teeth leads to increased tarter formation.
Usually occlusal (biting) forces are decreasing in this decade. This is a positive development because it reduces the potential of fracture of the teeth and also reduces the potential of developing problems in the TMJ (jaw joint) and the muscles that make the jaw work. This reduction in biting force is a gradual process. Most people really don’t notice it, but it is a natural component of this period of life.
This article was written by Dr. Mike Christensen and published in the Daily Miner and News, and Enterprise. Local Kenora News Publicatons (1998-2006)