If you’re in your forties or fifties—part of what’s more popularly known as Generation X, or Gen X for short—then you probably feel pretty confident about your oral health. After all, you’ve been brushing and flossing for literal decades, and dental treatments like dentures still feel far off in the future. What could you possibly need to worry about?
But even middle-aged adults still have a thing or two to learn about oral hygiene. As we age and change, so do our teeth and gums. Each stage of life presents new challenges to maintaining a healthy smile.
In our Oral Hygiene Tips blog series, we’re examining the oral health risks and healthy practices of different generations. Our West Michigan family dentists have helped patients of all ages achieve healthier smiles.
Previously, we’ve looked at oral hygiene tips for children, Gen Z, and millennials. Now, let’s take a look at what oral health risks await Generation X (ages, 41–56, for our purposes).
Even if you’ve been practicing good oral hygiene habits for decades, your age puts you at an increased risk for certain health issues. For Gen Xers, you’ll need to keep an eye out for symptoms of two major oral health problems: periodontal disease and obstructive sleep apnea.
Nearly half of Americans age 30 and older have periodontal (gum) disease, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Just over 70% of adults 65 years and older have periodontal disease. That leaves Gen X in the middle with an ever-increasing level of risk as they get older.
Gingivitis, which is the earliest sign of gum disease, can be treated and fully cured, reversing any negative effects to your oral health. However, once gum disease progresses past gingivitis, it can no longer be completely eradicated. It can only be treated and managed, preventing it from getting any worse.
If you’re experiencing any of the following symptoms of gingivitis, be sure to schedule an appointment with one of our family dentists as soon as possible:
When you think about a sleep disorder like obstructive sleep apnea, you may not associate it with your oral health and dentistry. However, our family dentists can help alleviate symptoms of this disorder with a sleep apnea mouth guard.
Obstructive sleep apnea is a serious medical condition that can prevent a person from breathing up to hundreds of times in a single night. Symptoms include loud snoring, insomnia, sleepiness during the day, and headaches, sore throat, and/or dry mouth upon waking.
Sleep apnea is dangerous because it deprives your body of oxygen while you are sleeping. According to the National Sleep Foundation, there are a number of factors that increase your risk for sleep apnea. Being age 40 or older is one of them.
If you believe you may be suffering from sleep apnea, or if you’ve witnessed your partner struggle to breathe during the night, schedule an appointment with our family dentists. We can create a custom sleep apnea mouth guard for you that will prevent your airway from being obstructed, allowing you to sleep peacefully.
How can you respond to these increased oral health risks? Here are a few oral health habits you can adopt.
Our dentists will conduct a periodontal evaluation each year so we can keep an eye on your gum health. That way, if we see any signs of gum disease, we can treat it early before it progresses to irreversible periodontitis.
Perhaps the most important habit you can get into is seeing our dentists every six months.
Typically, we recommend a six-month teeth cleaning for all patients to prevent plaque and tartar buildup, protecting against cavities and gum disease. But for our middle-aged patients, regular appointments are crucial in preventing small problems from spiraling out of control into larger issues—and this is usually the time in which small problems crop up.
For example, fillings you received in your twenties may be weakened to the point that they need to be replaced with dental crowns. By maintaining preventive dental appointments, we can monitor potential problems so we can respond to them early, saving you time and money and potentially even saving your tooth itself.
Our West Michigan family dentists can help you keep your oral health on track through your forties and fifties. Call MI Smiles Dental today at (616) 974-4990, or contact us online to schedule an appointment.
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