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A healthy smile is a bonus at any age Too often older people-- especially those who wear false teeth or dentures--feel they no longer need dental checkups If you havent learned the basics of oral health care it is not too late to start And even if you have its a good time to review Tooth Decay Cavities Tooth decay is not just a childrens disease it can happen as long as natural teeth are in the mouth Tooth decay is caused by bacteria that normally live in the mouth The bacteria cling to teeth and form a sticky colorless film called dental plaque The bacteria in plaque live on sugars and produce decay-causing acids that dissolve minerals on tooth surfaces Tooth decay can also develop on the exposed roots of the teeth if you have gum disease or receding gums where gums pull away from the teeth exposing the roots Just as with children fluoride is important for adult teeth Research has shown that adding fluoride to the water supply is the best and least costly way to prevent tooth decay In addition using fluoride toothpastes and mouthrinses can add protection Daily fluoride rinses can be bought at most drug stores without a prescription If you have a problem with cavities your dentist or dental hygienist may give you a fluoride treatment during the office visit The dentist may prescribe a fluoride gel or mouthrinse for you to use at home Gum Periodontal Disease A common cause of tooth loss after age 35 is gum periodontal disease These are infections of the gum and bone that hold the teeth in place Gum diseases are also caused by dental plaque The bacteria in plaque causes the gums to become inflamed and bleed easily If left untreated the disease gets worse as pockets of infection form between the teeth and gums This causes receding gums and loss of supporting bone
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