As people age many changes take place. For most of us, wrinkles begin to form. Energy levels decrease. And for those of us that have diabetes, weakened immune systems, poor or ineffective oral hygiene or just a prevalence of tartar buildup, there is yet another common problem—gum disease. The health of our gums can decline over time, often leading to gum disease and receding gums which expose vulnerable root surfaces and results in tooth decay on our roots.
Recent studies have found a link between growing older and the lowering of the production of the chemical Del-1, which is essential to the overall health and well-being of our mouths. When Del-1 levels decrease, the potential to develop gum disease can rise significantly. The Del-1 chemical is a protein that boosts the immune system and prevents white blood cells from attaching themselves to teeth and tissues in the mouth. The buildup of white blood cells in the mouth can cause damage to gum tissues and the mouth, according to Fightingaging.com.
A recent research endeavor studied the gum health of aging mice and found that older mice lost more of the Del-1 chemical than did the younger mice. This significant and groundbreaking finding helps shed light on the fact that decreasing Del-1 levels increase your gum disease risk as you age. It has also been speculated that Del-1 may stop bone loss. While brushing and flossing to remove harmful plaque (the sticky film of bacteria and debris) promotes the health of teeth, the loss of Del-1 can compromise the benefits of brushing and flossing and make it easier for periodontal (gum) disease to develop.
Unfortunately, the clock may be working against us. In addition to lowered Del-1 levels, as we age our saliva becomes thicker and less abundant. Our saliva is our first line of defense against cavities and gum disease. In addition, many older folks have a more difficult time cleaning their teeth and gums due to larger spaces in and around their teeth and a tendency towards a gradual decline in coordination. All these things contribute to a greater risk of periodontal disease, cavities, and tooth loss as we get older. As more research is conducted into Del-1, new treatments may be developed. But for the time being, it is important to take the best possible care of your teeth by brushing and flossing twice a day, using topical fluorides on your teeth and seeing your dentist or hygienist at the right interval for you. For many older adults this could be more frequent than just twice a year.
Don’t put it off! Contact me or my excellent staff at 248-356-8790 for a periodontal (gum) evaluation. The earlier these problems are detected, the easier and more predictable thetreatment is.
Until next time,
Dr. Mark W. Langberg, DDS, MAGD
26206 West 12 Mile Road, Suite 303
Southfield, MI 48034