Art of Aging: Protect your smile

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Studies have shown that flashing your smile can do everything from boosting your mood to lowering your blood pressure.

Studies have shown that flashing your smile can do everything from boosting your mood to lowering your blood pressure.

As a dentist, Dr. Bill Greenberg sees firsthand what happens when you don't take care of your teeth.

"If you think routine dentistry is expensive, wait until you see how much neglect costs," said Dr. Greenberg.

He recommends good lifelong habits of brushing and flossing but says, even then, aging can take a toll.

"By the time you're 85-years-old these teeth have been worked on so many times. It's just not a lot of vitality left in those teeth, they tend to fall apart."

The problem is Medicare doesn't cover most dentistry and dental insurance covers only the covers little things.

Financial adviser Richard Massaux says medical expenses can easily top six figures in retirement.

"The only way to really get ahead of it is to get ahead of it and plan for it and to realize healthcare costs are increasing faster than inflation," said Massaux.

You can set aside money in a tax free health savings account to cover unexpected costs. And, Dr. Greenberg says there are things you can do to protect your pearly whites as you age. First, he says watch what you eat.

Dr. Greenberg says, "You don't digest foods the same way as you get older. Your mouth becomes more acidic. The acidity encourages the growth of the bacteria that causes tooth decay."

He says lay off the sugar, swap hard candy for chewing gum. Be mindful of medications that cause dry mouth, which also promotes tooth decay and realize you're not as dexterous as you used to be, so invest in a good electric toothbrush.

"And, learn how to use it. It's easier to do a good job with an electric toothbrush than it is with a manual toothbrush, but you have to know how to use it," said Dr. Greenberg.

He says your dental hygienist can teach you proper technique.

Dr. Bill Greenberg adds, "If you follow the suggestions that I've made, that gives you the best chance of enjoying good dental health and the good quality of life that you deserve when you reach your senior years."

For more stories and information about seniors, visit the Art of Aging section.

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