Making oral health a priority in your senior years
May 15, 2018
Most seniors have had better dental care than the previous generations. Your teeth can last a lifetime with proper home care and regular dental cleanings and checkups.
With a population that has more seniors than in previous generations, it's essential that dental care be included in their daily health regimes. While we are all taught since childhood the importance of caring for your teeth, the issues of aging can sometimes make it more difficult for some seniors to property care for their teeth, and may lead to certain dental problems they might not have experienced when they were younger.
Keep Up with Oral Hygiene
A routine that was hopefully applied since childhood should be maintained. Keeping up with your oral hygiene at any age, and especially as you age, is essential. Continue brushing your teeth twice daily and flossing a minimum of once a day. Plaque builds up quickly on seniors' teeth, and it grows more quickly and is more likely to harden into tartar if basic hygiene is neglected. Arthritis can make regular oral hygiene activities, such as brushing your teeth, difficult, so you may need to talk to your dentist about what you can do to keep your teeth clean while simultaneously not straining your hands.
Just like when you were younger, you need to visit the dentist regularly. Most dentists recommend an average of six months between cleanings, but yours may recommend that you come in more frequently if he or she has concerns.
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What Special Oral Health Issues Should I Know About as a Senior?
No matter what your age, you can keep your teeth and gums healthy by brushing twice a day with a fluoride toothpaste, flossing daily and seeing your dentist regularly for professional cleanings and checkups. The same rule applies for all ages, brush for two minutes twice a day (2Min2X).
Even if you brush and floss regularly, you may face certain issues in your senior years when it comes to your oral health. Some of the oral health issues that many seniors have include the following:
Cavities and decay on the root surfaces of the teeth are more common in older adults. So it's important to brush with a fluoride toothpaste, floss daily and see your dentist regularly.
Poor oral hygiene, in some seniors, can result in a bacterial invasion that can cause result in the harboring of pneumococcal bacteria which can lead to pneumonia, as well as a multiplicity of general health problems including cardiac and circulatory problems. Some recent reports have shown the presence of oral bacteria being found in stroke sites.
Sensitivity can be an increasing problem as one ages. Your gums naturally recede over time, exposing areas of the tooth that are not protected by enamel. These areas are particularly prone to pain due to cold or hot foods or beverages.
Dry mouth is a common condition in seniors, and one that may be caused by medications or certain medical disorders. Left untreated, dry mouth can damage your teeth and lead to increased decay, as the neutralizing effect of saliva can be reduced or eliminated if a patient has an unusually dry mouth. Your dentist can recommend various methods to restore moisture in your mouth, as well as appropriate treatments or medications to help prevent the problems associated with dry mouth.
Existing health conditions such as diabetes, heart disease, or cancer, can affect your oral health. Always be sure to let you dentist know of any general health issues you're facing, or medications you are currently taking so any special requirements are cared for properly.
Dentures can make life easier for many seniors, but they require special care. Ill-fitting dentures can cause many issues, and they can even contribute to a diminished sense of taste. If you have removable dentures, be sure to wear and remove them on the schedule your dentist gives you. Removing your dentures at certain times allows your gum tissue time to rest and be cleaned by your saliva and tongue. Follow your dentists' instructions carefully, and have your dentures and their fit checked on a regular basis.
Regular Dentist Visits
Just like when you were younger, you need to visit the dentist regularly. Most dentists recommend an average of six months between cleanings, but yours may recommend that you come in more frequently if he or she has concerns. Brushing, flossing and perhaps increased use of moistening mouth rinses and moisturizing tooth pastes are options to consider.
Remember to call your dentist to schedule a consultation for your specific dental needs.