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Expected Dental Challenges - 60-70 Years Old

Decay potential is increasing during this period of life.

Root exposure and often sensitivity would also be expected to increase. Roots are especially prone to tooth decay because they are not covered with a layer of enamel. Roots are made entirely of the material that underlies enamel on the crowns of the teeth. This structure is called dentin. Dentin decays easier and much faster than enamel.

Manual dexterity might begin to decrease during the 60 to 70 year old period, but often not in a large way until later. It is a challenge to brush some areas of the mouth. Areas where teeth are overlapped present a particular challenge. Adding to this increasing challenge to keep the teeth clean is that most people have a decreasing maximum mouth opening during this period and beyond making brushing and flossing more difficult. An electric toothbrush helps to reduce the decreased oral hygiene that often comes in this decade of life. Years ago, an electric toothbrush was a fairly significant investment, often costing more than $100. Of course, a person can still buy expensive electric toothbrushes, but there are many electric toothbrushes available for less than $20. Most of the less expensive models are powered by batteries that cannot be recharged. The more expensive models tend to have rechargeable batteries and a more complicated movement which arguably cleans the teeth a little better than the simple action of an inexpensive electric tooth brush. A tooth brush with the Little Mermaid on it works almost as well as one looking much more sophisticated but usually costs a fraction as much.

The action of the hand most likely to become at least partially impaired in this period that affects tooth brushing is the rolling motion. If you make a fist with your fingers and thumb with your hand palm down in front of you and try to roll your hand at the wrist like you are twisting a motorcycle throttle, this more or less matches an important hand motion for tooth brushing. Many people in the 60-70 year old period have decreased rolling motion in their hands. This reduces their ability to reach all the surfaces of the teeth with a manual tooth brush. An electric tooth brush does not require nearly as much rolling motion in the wrist to clean the teeth effectively as a manual tooth brush requires.

The areas of tooth structure that have no enamel covering are the areas that are most critical to brush in order to avoid tooth decay. This means the roots are the area to concentrate on when brushing. Try to brush the junction where the gums and the roots of the teeth meet. Often people brush the enamel covered portions of the teeth perfectly and leave a layer of untouched dental plaque along the gum line where the teeth are most susceptible to decay.

Increased fluoride delivery at home is important for nearly everyone in this decade of life to decrease the incidence of decay on the root surfaces of the teeth. Recently on TV, there have been reports of Health Canada recommending less fluoride in the water. Ongoing fluoride in the water affects the teeth of an adult so little that the experts actually argue whether it does anything at all. Fluoride in the water does not and cannot damage erupted teeth. Fluoride in the water decreases tooth decay throughout life for those who had the fluoride in the water while the enamel of their permanent teeth was forming under the gums. It is the 2-9 year old group that really benefits from fluoride in the water. The fluoride that a 60-70 year old person and other adults need is 5000 times as concentrated as fluoride in the water. It must be applied daily or even more often to maximize its effect. Product names for this type of fluoride include Prevident or Pro Dent RX.

Decreased salivary flow often intensifies during this period leading many people to begin using hard candies to moisten their mouths. A hard candy habit can be catastrophic to the teeth and should be avoided at all cost. If a person feels he has to have candies in the mouth to increase salivary flow, use sugar free candies so the teeth are not affected.

- This article was written by Dr. Mike Christensen and published in the Daily Miner and News, and Enterprise. Local Kenora News Publicatons (1998-2006)

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