Our Teeth as We Age – Part 1

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Many Americans admit that they would rather be almost anywhere than sitting in the dentist chair. It can be painful, uncomfortable, and filled with lots of small talk while your mouth is wide open.
So, to shed some light on the benefits of dentistry, we at Home and Healthy interviewed a dentist and specifically inquired about various dental issues seniors are most likely to encounter, how to solve those issues and maintain the best possible set of teeth for years to come!  Here is the first of a two part series on dental health entitled “Our Teeth as We Age.” We hope these articles can shed a positive light on the value of your dental appointments.

Question 1: How does maintaining dental health positively impact my overall health?
– “What many people don’t realize is how important dental health is to overall well-being.  Yes, nutrition begins in the mouth, but it is not just WHAT you eat but HOW you eat.
Whether you have all of your teeth, partial dentures or full dentures, strong and sturdy teeth are able to chew a healthy balanced diet that consists of many vitamins and nutrients.  Eating only soft and mushy foods may cause you to miss out on the important health benefits of fresh fruits and vegetables.
A good set of teeth allows you to eat a healthy variety of foods and allows you to fully break down the foods you are eating and aid in the process of digestion.
Digestion, believe it or not, begins in the mouth. When we eat, our saliva produces special enzymes responsible for breaking down food. The better we chew our food the less gastro-intestinal problems we will experience. Acid reflux and heartburn can be attributed to improperly chewed and digested food.  For example, when your food is not well chewed it causes you to swallow more air as you gulp down the large chunks.  When does acid reflux occur? When we burp. Why do we burp? Because we have unwanted air in our stomachs. How do we get rid of unwanted air in our stomachs? By better chewing our food and swallowing less air.
In one extreme case, a patient had a chronic case of hiccups. He had been hiccuping for over 20 years. By re-fitting his dentures he was finally able to better chew his food which resulted in less air swallowed and his hiccups stopped.”

Question 2: What impact does good diet have on dental health?
– “Well this one is pretty straight forward. Most people know that eating lots of sugar leads to more plaque and more cavities. Try to avoid overly sugary foods and drinks, like sodas and sweetened teas.
Also, while it is very good to eat fruits and vegetables, you have to monitor the amount of highly acidic fruits such as lemons, limes, and orange juice that you consume.  Foods and drinks with high acid levels (for example sodas) break down enamel and leave teeth weaker and more susceptible to cavities.
In conclusion, eating the right food and eating that food in the proper manner are both equally as important to your overall health. But as a good dentist, I can’t forget to stress the equal importance of brushing and flossing regularly.” Keith S. Kiefer, D.M.D