Interlochen’s Dr. Debra Lewis has been practicing dental care since 1997, and over those 30 years has taken the time to get to know each one of her patients. Here are her tips for maintaining a healthy, sparkling smile as you age.
1. Keep Up Your Oral Care
“Those good habits you’ve established in the past—keep doing those. The need is always there. Nothing changes as you age,” says Dr. Lewis. This means brushing twice a day for two minutes a day, not forgetting to floss and being aware of sugary and acidic drinks in your diet. “Especially now that things are conveniently bottled and canned,” she adds. “Pay attention to flavored coffee; seltzer waters have acid that makes bubbles and diet pop doesn’t have sugar but it’s still high in acid that can be detrimental to the enamel on your teeth. Keep doing what you’ve been doing if you’ve already established good oral health care.”
2. Pay Attention to Your Medications
“As we mature and our medication list increases, that can be a concern. A lot of medications have sugar sweeteners added to them to affect the flavor, and sometimes they cause dry mouth,” she mentions. If dry mouth happens to you, she recommends mouth rinses, lozenges and/or gum to stimulate saliva.
3. You’re Not Too Old for Braces!
“Yes, your teeth can be aligned at any age!” says Dr. Lewis. You can try traditional braces or there are new positioning appliances, clear and similar to a retainer, that you wear 24/7 to move your teeth around (check out brands like Invisalign). “People like it because it’s not bracket and wires, it takes about the same amount of time to align and can cost basically the same.”
4. Concerned About Coloring?
“After a lifetime of coffee, red wine and cigarettes, sometimes teeth are darker than they were to begin with,” comments Dr. Lewis. She recommends talking with your dentist, as many new whitening techniques are effective.
5. If You’re an Active Adult, Wear a Mouth Guard
“It’s the same type of thing we tell our teenagers about protecting our teeth. Basketball or hockey players on the maturity league, it’s still important to wear mouth guards to protect our teeth,” shares Dr. Lewis.
6. Take Care of Your Gums
“So many people say, ‘Oh, I’m getting older, is that why my gums are receding?’ Maturity doesn’t necessarily mean an increase of gum disease. It can be affected, but just because your age is adding up, doesn’t mean that’s the reason for receding gums,” she says.
7. Spice it Up and Try New Products!
“There are so many new and useful products like power toothbrushes, water picks/flossers, different types of toothpastes for sensitivity, whitening or gum health. Find what works best for you.” And when it comes to selecting a toothpaste, she recommends choosing one with fluoride to prevent and protect new decay and exposed root surfaces—among other oral health concerns.
8. Get Flouride Treatments
They’re not just for kids. “We suggest older patients have fluoride treatments,” she says. “Even as an adult, we recommend the in-office treatment once or twice a year.”