by Richard P. Holm
The adage “don’t look a gift horse in the mouth” means to not find fault with something you have been gifted. It refers to the fact that a horse’s age can be determined by looking at their teeth. If the gum has receded and the horse is “long in the tooth”, then it is an old horse. Like an old horse, my teeth and I have been around for a while, and I always get a bit nervous when I drive up to the dentist’s office, concerned about what problems they might find.
There are several things that can cause dental troubles. A common, frequently overlooked cause is dry-mouth. Experts in the field of geriatric dentistry say that saliva is an important and complex fluid that is taken for granted when it comes to dental health. Without spit, teeth fall out in short order, the gastro-intestinal tract becomes troubled, and the overall quality of life diminishes significantly. Certain autoimmune conditions can reduce saliva, but a more common cause of dry-mouth are medications. Dry-mouth is a common and unassuming side effect of many prescriptions. Pills that can cause dry mouth include those used to treat bladder and bowel-spasms, nasal congestion, depression, anxiety, psychosis, acne, epilepsy, pain, high blood pressure, diarrhea, asthma, and nausea.
Although dry mouth is a challenge for many, it is fortunately not my problem. My dental hygienist said, after a thorough look, “Good news: your gums look pretty darn good for a 68-year-old. I see no problems.” After reviewing the X-rays, she said, “You must be regularly cleaning the areas between your teeth. Whatever you’re doing, keep it up.”
It is important to care for your teeth throughout your life so that your gums stay healthy and teeth stay strong. Aside from brushing twice-a-day, and a visit to the dentist twice a year, my efforts include removing food particles at the end of the day with a water-jet-washing device, similar yet more effective than flossing. It surprises me, every night, how many pieces of meat, corn, or broccoli can be stuck up in-between my teeth. Also, over the last ten years, I’ve been using those special disposable tooth-pick flossing tools that come in a bag which I place in a spot I notice and can reach into every day.
With daily jet-washing, picking and flossing, and avoiding medicine-induced dry mouth, I have been rewarded with good dental health. I still have my own chompers, and I’m not quite so “long in the tooth” as could be expected. Hopefully this advice can help you be as equally blessed.