Are You at Risk for Tooth Loss?
How to keep your teeth for a lifetime.
Feed Your Teeth the Right Stuff
You don't need a special diet. Sound nutritional habits will do the trick. However, meeting your daily requirements for calcium and vitamin C, plus plenty of water, may be especially helpful for your teeth and gums.
"We know that sugar is a super fuel for bacteria that produces acids and enzymes," Price says. "So either cut down on the sugar or get it out of your mouth before it produces harm."
If you do lose your teeth, it may limit your diet.
"People who don't have their teeth tend to eat soft, high-carbohydrate diets," Clem says. "They are not able to eat high-protein, high-fiber foods, which are even more important as they age." And that could contribute to a whole host of other problems, such as heart disease or diabetes.
Smoking affects the blood supply that feeds your gums, increasing the incidence and severity of periodontal disease.
"Smokeless tobacco has an even more deleterious [harmful] effect on gums," Price says.
Smokers are harder to treat, says Clem, and their response to treatment is less predictable. But if you quit smoking, you'll cut your odds of heart disease, as well as periodontal disease.
Manage Chronic Diseases
If you have a chronic disease, you may need to take extra care of your teeth.
People with poorly managed diabetes, for instance, may have difficulty with fighting infection and wound healing.
If you have diabetes, you need to pay special attention to blood glucose control, as well as dental care and regular checkups.
Contact your dentist if you see signs of periodontal disease: red, sore, or bleeding gums.
Start Tooth Loss Prevention Early
Attention, parents: Just as with other aspects of early development, good prenatal care and nutrition can promote healthy tooth development. It even matters during pregnancy. "Teeth start erupting in the third to fifth month of pregnancy," Price says.
A few reminders for parents:
- Never put your child to bed with a bottle of milk or sweet fluids. This bathes the mouth in sugar.
- Wipe your tot's gum pads with sterile gauze once in a while, right before or while teeth are coming in.
- When your child is learning to brush her teeth, have her stand in front of you, with her back to your front, then look up at you, which makes the mouth open up.
- Have your child use toothpaste with fluoride, but make sure he spits it out.
- Ask your child's dentist about sealants, a plastic coating for the chewing surfaces of teeth.
- Have your child use a mouth guard when playing contact sports.