“If I knew I was going to live this long, I’d have taken better care of myself.” This is a wise quote by Mickey Mantle that I hear many patients say regularly in one way or another.
People are living longer now and many are realizing they need to think more about their health and how to keep their teeth for a lifetime. People who are retiring today and who are due to retire in the next decade are going to live very long lives due to advances in medicine… and dentistry! We need to be open to those advances and interested in finding out how to preserve our health, including oral health.
The key to keeping teeth for a long lifetime is prevention. Gum disease is the main cause of tooth loss in people over age 35. Gum disease is preventable. A great way to avoid gum disease is to floss daily. I say this to patients all day long and their eyes glaze over. Why? I don’t know.
Brushing is not enough. If you’ve brushed your teeth every day of your life and kept them in perfect condition with no cavities, but you’ve never flossed, then you might be in trouble. Cleaning in between teeth is essential. Flossing takes five minutes a day – start now and make it a part of your daily hygiene. We love to show patients new and easy interdental cleaners that have the ADA seal of approval.
If you haven’t kept up on your flossing, another key to tooth loss prevention is to carefully consider the treatment plan that your dentist suggests. Express any concerns you might have such as cost. Ask questions such as “why do I need this?” Ask if there are alternatives. But trust the fact that your dentist wants to help you save your teeth for life and has your best interest at heart. Patients who just want patch-up jobs often short-change themselves for later in life.
Will you still have your teeth when you get old? You should, but chances are it won’t just happen on its own. The better job you do keeping up with conditions in your mouth now, the more likely you will be to enjoy chewing with natural teeth when you’re 85. Great dental care is widely available now for those who value it and make it a priority.
“Life’s tragedy is that we get old too soon and wise too late,” said Benjamin Franklin.
Author: Mary Briski
Mary graduated from the University of Minnesota with her associate degree in dental hygiene. She and her husband Joe have three grown children and four grandchildren.