We all know aging is a natural part of life. And most of us start considering ways in which we can keep our bodies healthy as we age. We eat better. We step up our exercise routine. We even take extra vitamin supplements in the hopes that our bones and joints remain in healthy condition.
So why do so many of us take our jaws for granted?
We all know that tooth decay and gum disease can happen at any time—even if you’re older than 65. And most of us take preventative steps to combat it. But did you know that musculoskeletal conditions such as TMJD can occur in up to 12 percent of the U.S. population? And did you know that older Americans are particularly susceptible to it?
Don’t take the health of your jaws for granted. Here are 5 tips to keep them strong and healthy.
1. Healthy Bones, Healthy Jaws
We all know calcium prevents osteoporosis. But most of us quickly forget that our jaws are also made of bone. As our bodies age, our ability to absorb calcium declines. Postmenopausal women in particular are more susceptible to bone disease and should strive for a calcium intake of at least 1200 mgs a day. But don’t think that men can’t be impacted by bone decay, either. Even if you think your intake is adequate, men between the ages of 45 and 70 should still try to ensure at least 1000 mgs of calcium each day; adjust your intake to 1200 mg.
2. Stop Grinding Your Teeth!
Teeth grinding is a habit many of us are entirely aware of. That’s because it happens primarily at night while we’re asleep. But teeth grinding can also occur during times of stress and even in deep thought. It’s not just responsible for tooth damage. Headaches are just as common with tooth grinding and inevitably what goes for teeth will eventually affect your jaw, as well. Typically, your surgeon can identify signs of damaged teeth caused by grinding, and may even suggest Botox injections if the need is particularly drastic..
3. Eat Clean. Eat Healthier
If you’re like most Americans, you’re probably already eating a balanced diet as you age. But that’s the key word: balance. Strive for a mixture of hard and soft foods for a healthy jaw, including calcium rich foods such as:
- Beans and lentils
- Seeds, nuts and grains
4. Give Your Jaw A Break
It’s common to recommend a course of regular jaw stretches for maximal health as we age. The problem comes when we overwork them. The temporomandibular joint (TMJ) can be overused by excessive talking, eating too many hard foods… even chewing gum! It needs time to rest. Don’t try to stretch your jaw for more than 10 minutes each morning and massage it regularly if you feel stiffness or tenderness.
5. Visit Your Dentist More Frequently
It’s a good rule of thumb that most people under the age of 50 should visit their dentist at least once a quarter. But as we age, the resilience of our gums, jaw and teeth begins to fade slowly. As a result, you may need to find it necessary to visit your dentist or oral health specialist more often to keep your jaws at peak performance. Remember, it’s the health of your entire mouth you need to be concerned with as you age.
And you won’t get a chance to buy another one.
If you’re in Southern Utah and are concerned about the health of your jaw, you may be experiencing more than periodic discomfort. We can help. Find out more about Dr. Shawn Davis and his team at the Oral and Facial Surgery Institute.