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Special Section

Senior Living: Overall good health includes your teeth

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May 21, 2014 | 1,852 views | Post a comment

By Bryce Chandler, D.D.S., F.I.C.O.I., M.A.G.D.

It was not long ago that living to 70 was a great accomplishment. We all have friends and family members who are doing great, well into their 90s. I have always been amazed at the amount of people who not only get to this number, but also do so gracefully. I am fortunate to have a rather large population of patients in my practice that are well into their 90s. While discussions range from their great-grandchildren’s tee-ball games to stories of their youth and places they have seen, we eventually always stumble on a few words of advice that carry a familiar ring. It seems daily exercise, getting outside, and being able to eat comfortably is their repeated advice for a healthy long life.

Exercise: Simply, more than anything else we can do, 20 minutes of daily exercise decreases our risk and severity of a large list of ailments. The type of exercise is of less importance, but the daily routine is the key. Whether taking a morning walk, working in the garden, or hitting the dance floor, getting the body moving each day is a major key for a long healthy life.

Getting outside: Getting outside is as good for our body as it is for our soul. While no one recommends sitting by the pool for six hours a day and baking, it is amazing what a little sunshine and fresh air will do for our bodies. Over half of our population is deficient in Vitamin D and around 20 minutes of sunshine each day will charge up our body to create this needed nutrient. If you want to lower your risk for most diseases and become healthier, simply raise your level of Vitamin D. Most of us can easily get this time outside by coupling it with their daily walk or gardening time.

Mouth: While our oral care starts when we are young, generally we determine in our 20s to 40s which direction we are going with our teeth as we continue to age. While I am a big fan of keeping the teeth we have, many factors like genetics, hand dexterity, and dry mouth often steer us down the road of removal of teeth in favor of dentures. While there is a stark difference between a full set of natural teeth and a pair of dentures, my patients that make it into their 90s have one thing in common, really good oral care. For those with teeth, they continue to focus on good brushing and flossing. They drink plenty of water, tea, or coffee during the day, which keeps them hydrated and helps keep them from getting a dry mouth. Most avoid sodas or adding acids, like lemons, to what they sip on during the day. Sipping and snacking on acidic foods and drinks during the day is the major cause for cavities. By avoiding this recurring acid habit, it is common to see teeth last a lifetime.

For those with dentures, really good oral care involves daily cleaning of the denture as well as cleaning and brushing the mouth. It is just as important to clean the mouth thoroughly for those with no teeth, as it is for those will a full set. A well-fitting set of teeth makes a large difference as well. People who have poorly fitting dentures usually suffer from a variety of ailments. Common problems are mouth sores, digestive problems caused by swallowing large pieces of food, and poor nutrition occurs by avoiding certain foods due to the pain or effort needed to eat them. Fortunately, improved dental technology helps us create better fitting dentures, and with the addition of implants, even the loosest denture can be made to hold tight.

It is never too late or early to start. Set a routine of daily physical activity, get outside, and keep that mouth in top shape.

Dr. Chandler has been a dental practitioner since 2000. The Floresville High School graduate is a member of the editorial review board for the Journal of Implant and Advanced Clinical Dentistry and is a mentor of the Kois Center in Seattle.

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