We Baby Boomers and our Oral Health

Baby Boomers have unique oral health issues.

We baby boomers are now in our late 60’s to early 80’s and we are expecting to live quite a bit longer than our parents did. More of us have our own teeth also. Many of us are already retired and the rest are not far off. We are most likely already taking various prescription medicines like blood pressure tablets, cholesterol lowering tablets and anti-depressants.

In our mellowing years we are enjoying a nice bottle of wine quite often in the evening and a few cups of tea during the day. All these things reduce our saliva flow and this has a big impact on our oral health. Our main exercise is walking the dog or playing with our grand-children or a steady round of golf. Our bodies are slowing down whether we like it or not. We have not had too many fillings or extractions for quite a few years usually, but we notice we are suddenly getting a lot more oral health problems

For most of us, our teeth have not needed much attention at all for the last 30 years, but suddenly the dentist is finding some costly issues.

Why is this so, and what do we do about it?

Firstly, because most of us are on a few medicines, we develop a gradual drying up of our mouths called xerostomia. We may not even be aware of it.

It shows up as things like teeth that are sensitive, a few fillings and crowns seem to be needed and our teeth are getting more worn down. Our offspring may tell us we have bad breath now too. 

If we already have false teeth, they seem to fall down much too often and do not chew as well and embarrass us often. These are all because of the drying effect of many of the medications most of us need to take. The gaps around our teeth are getting larger and now a lot of food gets caught.

We are learning to floss even if we also struggle with a bit of arthritis in the fingers (and most other places). As our teeth wear down and our lips hang down a bit lower, our teeth start disappearing behind our lips. Even though most of us have our own teeth, some of us look like our teeth have hidden under our lips and it makes us look a lot older than we really are.

The dentist may quite likely tell us that we have gum disease and that if it gets much worse it will start to affect our general health. 

We Baby Boomers and our Oral Health

Very worn front teeth.

We Baby Boomers and our Oral Health

Teeth reshaped by adding composite (white filling) to the worn edges.

Image Credit: http://www.doogandental.co.uk/dental/tooth%20wear.htm

What happens if we don’t take action?

Moderate to severe periodontal disease is now known to cause a number of serious to life-threatening diseases including:-

  • Heart Attack and Stroke (We are twice as likely to die from a Heart Attack or Stroke, if we have advanced periodontal disease than if we have high cholesterol levels.)
  • Diabetes
  • Low birth weight babies (won’t worry us too much)
  • Premature births (Nor will that worry our age group)
  • Arthritis
  • Kidney Disease
  • Now it is considered likely that Alzheimer’s Disease and Dementia are also likely to be linked
We Baby Boomers and our Oral Health


Our teeth, like our bones, are becoming more brittle, and we chip and break them more often now. Most of us have had a mouth full of mercury amalgam fillings that we had in our teens and twenties and they are wearing down and also breaking our teeth, and it is seeming to happen all at once. That is why we suddenly start needing a lot more huge fillings and crowns and sometimes lose certain teeth. We are also in the higher risk bracket for Oral Cancer. These are the most common issues affecting the soft tissues, teeth and gums of us baby boomers.

So, what are our options?

We can reduce the impact of many of these problems by attending our dentist more regularly and having our teeth thoroughly cleaned.

  • If we are told our gums are diseased, our dentist may advise us to see a Specialist Periodontist.
  • If we are missing quite a few teeth, we may be advised to have the missing ones replaced by partial dentures, bridges or implants.

It’s usually a good thing that our kids are off our hands and we have nearly paid off the mortgage because suddenly our teeth have become a big expense. We probably face more dental expense now than the rest of our lives earlier. Sometimes it is big decision time.

Do we just keep patching them up and hope for the best, or do we eat into the kid’s inheritance and spend some money on ourselves?

At times, we are looking at the cost of a new car to fix our tooth problems now, when we have usually only spent a few hundred dollars a year on our teeth for decades.

Do we opt to have them all out and dentures put in?

Even that is a costly exercise but still cheaper than a whole pile of crowns and a few implants that we are probably facing.

How will dentures compare to our own teeth still?

Dentures may get rid of one set of problems, but it is the start of a whole new set of problems. 25% of our senior citizens have no teeth of their own and wear dentures. Some swear by them, yet most regret the decision to have their remaining teeth removed.

They can never enjoy eating as much, their faces cave in as the bone that supported their teeth dissolves away and their digestion suffers severely from inability to chew food properly.

Medical science now recognises that people who have full dentures or no teeth at all have significantly shorter life expectancies than those that have teeth, whether they are all natural, all crowns, bridges or implants or just heavily filled teeth, because we can simply eat properly.

Full denture wearers or those with no teeth at all not only cannot fully digest their food but also tend to select far poorer foods that just do not sustain us.Their diets change completely to accommodate this loss of chewing ability and no food ever tastes the same.

At times, it is still the best advice to remove all remaining teeth, because the gums are so diseased that it is putting our lives at risk and making our lives misery.

All is not lost, and it is usually possible to place implants and either have a set of dentures anchored strongly to a few implants, but if we expect chewing function as good as it was with our own teeth when they were still good, we will likely need to have more implants placed and bridges fixed permanently to these implants.

The cost can be huge. 

Easily as much as a quality family size car and often more…unless we like to drive a BMW or a Benz.

Will we be able to get it done through the public dental system?

Very unlikely, especially when there is usually a few year waiting list just to get dentures.

What about going to Bali or Thailand?

Big risks! There is no regulation as to what sorts of treatments are offered there and they can do anything they like knowing when it stuffs up, we are very unlikely to risk going back there to try to get it fixed up. They also know we have almost no chance of getting financial compensation through the legal system. All sorts of things are promised but a decent job is not necessarily presented.

If we decide to spend the money and fix our own teeth in the safety of a fully regulated dental system in Australia, we will probably expect to spend a lot of money but, if we do it right, we will probably find that we will be greatly reducing further dental expense for the rest of our life with that decision. This is because the higher quality of these services is likely to last for decades and also balance and support our teeth far better than teeth that just keep getting patched up thinking we are saving money.

Teeth patched-up keep giving trouble and each one patched up puts more strain on the dwindling number of less patched-up teeth. We are far more likely to suffer dental emergencies at the most inconvenient times by continuing to just patch them up.

The Dentist can play a huge role in our oral health if we attend our routine 4-6 monthly appointments to keep our gums healthy enough to ensure we keep our teeth for life.

We Baby Boomers and our Oral Health

Ageing and our Skin

As we age, our skin ages as well and now it is really starting to show.

If we have not already been having a good skin examination regularly, we might have it suggested to us to have a good look all over by a Dermatologist or Skin Cancer Clinic. There’s a fair chance we are going to need a few things frozen off or lopped off and looked at under a microscope. That’s just a life of exposure to the sun.

Our faces have now got quite a few character lines and some of us are happy to age gracefully and accept this. Some of us want to defy the process of ageing and try to peel back the years on our faces and bodies.

We need to start that process of slowing down ageing from the inside as well and this is done by careful examination of our diet and a good intake of vitamins, minerals and anti-oxidants will really help as will good nutritional supplements. Correct skin care is never too late to begin.

Avoidance of the two worst ageing factors for our skin will help greatly.

These are careful sun protection and avoidance of sun exposure as much as possible along with avoiding smoking.

We all know the many risks involved in smoking in terms of heart and lung disease.

Oral and throat cancers are also big risks and it is our generation most in the firing line.

Have it checked. Smoking is nearly as ageing on the skin as the sun. As a result of our assessment, we may recommend you see either a Dermatologist or Skin Cancer Specialist.

Life is not always easy as we age but a healthy mouth is an integral part of your overall health especially in our age group.

We have probably seen a dozen different dentists or more in your lifetime but sticking to the one Dental Office who can set a long term plan for maintaining our Oral Health now and visiting regularly will take those particular worries out of our life as we approach those golden years.

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