Columbia, SC (Sept. 6, 2018) - Contrary to popular belief, tooth loss is avoidable – when properly cared for, pearly whites can last a lifetime. In recognition of Healthy Aging Month, Delta Dental of South Carolina is addressing some common oral health concerns and offering expert advice for older adults on how to properly maintain their smiles.

“Teeth can be prone to cavities at any age,” said Ron Inge, DDS, chief dental officer, chief operating officer and vice president of professional services for Delta Dental of South Carolina. “Older adults are more susceptible to cavities on the roots of their teeth. Older adults also need to be mindful of the risk of mouth cancer, the prevalence of gum disease and how the side effects of certain medications can be detrimental to dental health.”

To help spread strong, healthy smiles across the state, Delta Dental of South Carolina is issuing the following reminders:

Sticking to the Oral Health Basics is Beneficial – Cavities and gum disease are largely preventable. Much comes down to keeping teeth and gums free of the sticky, colorless film of bacteria, known as plaque. It allows bacteria to hide in hard-to-reach places. The bacteria produce acid that breaks down tooth enamel and gum tissue. Gum disease is a major cause of adult tooth loss. It is imperative that aging older adults adhere to an oral health regime of brushing twice daily, flossing and visiting the dentist regularly. If dexterity is a problem, electronic toothbrushes and flossers are very effective at removing plaque and keeping teeth clean.

Side Effects of Medications Can Manifest in the Mouth – Certain prescription drugs, over-the-counter medications, vitamins and supplements can cause a wide range of oral health issues, including swollen gums, a metallic taste, canker sores, tooth discoloration and more. On average older adults are taking multiple medications that result in dry mouth. As a result, dry mouth is very common and detrimental to dental health. Saliva helps cleanse and maintain healthy teeth and gums, serving as a natural buffer against the acids that cause cavities and gum disease.   

Dentists Can Detect Early Signs of Oral Cancer – Cancer can occur anywhere in the mouth, including the lips, tongue, the roof and floor of the mouth, inside of the cheeks and gums and the throat. The average age of diagnosis for oral cancer is 62. Unfortunately, by this time the cancer has usually progressed to later stages. Dentists screen for oral cancer as part of routine exams. As with any form of this disease, early detection is key to treatment and survival.  

“It is important to note that all of the previously discussed issues can be complicated by the fact that as individuals age, dental health problems can begin to develop without the presence of pain or discomfort,” added Dr. Inge. “Visiting the dentist at least annually for an exam and preventive care is imperative. A lot of investments are made leading up to, and during retirement, and an investment in one’s dental health shouldn’t be an exception.”  

To learn more about Delta Dental of South Carolina, visit Helpful oral health news and information is also available on the company’s website, as well as on Facebook and Twitter @DeltaDentalSC.