How to Care for Your Teeth As a Senior
Aging is a part of life, and many people assume they will lose their teeth eventually, regardless of how they live. This is not true. By taking care of your mouth as you age, you can maintain healthy teeth and gums into your senior years. Plus, by taking care of your teeth, you set your body up for better overall health.
Why senior dental health is important
Your dental health is connected to the health of your entire body. The bacteria that live in your mouth can travel throughout the body and contribute to problems with your overall health. Research shows that bacteria in your mouth can contribute to a number of conditions, including heart disease, respiratory infections, and diabetic complications.
You can enjoy your golden years with a healthy smile by following these dental health guidelines:
Visit the dentist regularly
As you age, the nerves inside your mouth become less sensitive. This means, you may have dental issues and not realize it. Seeing your dentist for regular cleanings and oral exams is important for maintaining your oral health during your senior years. Make sure to visit the dentist every six months and more frequently if you’re experiencing issues.
Brush & floss often
General guidelines are to clean your teeth twice a day. However, as you age, your mouth requires extra attention. After age 50, plaque builds up more quickly and is much harder to remove. Get in the habit of brushing your teeth when you wake up, after every meal, and before going to bed. Consistent flossing is also very important and should be done after every meal.
Use an electric toothbrush
An electric toothbrush with soft bristles is a great dental tool for all ages. It is particularly helpful for seniors with arthritis, as the brush does the work of brushing for you.
Be gentle on your gums
Gum recession causes root surfaces of teeth to become exposed, making them more susceptible to sensitivity or decay. Recession can be caused by a heavy-handed approach to brushing and flossing. Be gentle with your gums. Use a soft-bristle toothbrush and as you brush, use slow, gentle movements. When flossing, use a gentle bouncing motion to carefully move the floss between your teeth. Do not dig the floss into your gums.
Clean dentures daily
Just like your teeth, dentures need to be cleaned every day to remove food, plaque, and prevent stains. Do not use toothpaste, because it is abrasive and could cause damage. Instead, use a product designed specifically for dentures. When you’re not wearing your dentures, ensure they don’t dry out. Soak them in a denture cleanse solution or in plain water.
It’s also important to give your mouth frequent breaks from your dentures. Taking them out each day helps maintain healthy gums. Get in the habit of cleaning your dentures before bed and keeping them out of your mouth for at least four hours while you sleep.
We all know smoking is terrible for your health. It also contributes to a host of dental problems, including receding gums, tooth decay, gum disease, and oral cancer. The only way to decrease your risk of these serious dental issues is to quit smoking.
Watch for side effects of medications
The medications you take could cause dry mouth, which allows plaque to adhere to teeth, accelerating tooth decay and causing gum disease. Saliva is necessary because it washes away plaque and neutralizes acids produced by oral bacteria and found in our diet. Every time you begin a new medication, watch for changes to your teeth, gums, and mouth. Always contact a dentist if you notice a change.
Drink lots of water
Drinking water helps keep your mouth clean by rinsing away and diluting the acids produced by bacteria in your mouth. It’s also a natural deterrent for dry mouth and makes it easier for you to swallow.
Avoid soda & caffeinated beverages
Soda is loaded with sugar and feeds bacteria, which leads to increased acidity in your mouth. This acid destroys your tooth enamel, creating cavities and often leading to tooth loss. Drinking soda and other caffeinated beverages also contributes to dry mouth.
Helping you through the process
If your parent or loved one needs more help than you can provide, contact Oasis Senior Advisors for assistance. We offer resources for seniors and their families, as well as support and guidance every step of the way, so you can feel confident in your senior housing selection.