Taking care of your teeth at any age is extremely important for your overall health. But, as we age, it becomes even more imperative to be diligent in practicing good oral hygiene. Seniors have special considerations regarding oral health–years of wear and tear on teeth and gums, bad habits, as well as aging issues like dexterity and cognitive decline–making it more difficult to maintain proper dental care. Additionally, aging can cause certain dental problems that younger adults more easily avoid such as tooth decay and gum disease. Elderly dental care is essential for a senior’s overall quality of life.
Elderly dental care takes into consideration the effects of aging on the teeth and gums, including a lifetime of habits. When oral hygiene has been neglected, caring for a senior’s dental health becomes more involved. In order to avert major health concerns from poor dental care, it is important for seniors to follow a consistent regimen of tooth and mouth care. Your Fuquay-Varina dentist makes elderly dental care a priority in his practice. In this article, we provide some dental tips for the elderly that help ensure optimum oral hygiene.
See the Dentist Regularly
Maintaining a regular schedule for dental checkups is very important for the elderly. With seniors, when problems arise, they progress quickly. Visiting the dentist on a six-month schedule, or more frequently if advised by the dentist, can catch issues before they become severe.
During the checkup, the dentist will get some information from you such as:
- When you last saw the dentist and why
- If there are any recent changes in your mouth
- If there are any loose or sensitive teeth
- If you have noticed any difficulty tasting, chewing, or swallowing
- If you have any pain, discomfort, sores, or bleeding in your mouth
- If you have noticed any lumps or swellings in your mouth
An oral exam will include the dentist checking for abnormalities in your:
- Face and neck for moles, sores, or skin discoloration
- Lymph nodes and salivary glands
- Inner cheeks
- Tongue, the floor of the mouth, the soft and hard palate, gum tissue
It’s important for everyone to brush at least twice a day, but the dentist may advise a senior to brush after each meal. Spacing in between teeth can lend itself to catching food particles that lead to tooth decay or gum disease, making it necessary to brush more often. Always brush for a full two minutes each time. Dentists recommend changing toothbrushes every three months at a minimum and will recommend the bristle strength that is best for you. With seniors, a hard bristle may not be the safest for gum health. However, on the other hand, certain gum conditions can require a hard bristle.
Daily flossing improves dental outcomes by reducing the risk of cavities and gum disease. But, aging can make flossing more difficult if there are dexterity problems or if you wear bridges. Your dental hygienist can show you the flossing procedures for your specific situation.
Drink Lots of Water
Staying hydrated is key for overall health but, in particular, for oral health when seniors take medications that cause dry mouth. A dry mouth can lead to enamel erosion over time. Talk to your dentist about the medications you are taking in case a change in medication can help lessen dry mouth.
Rinse with Mouthwash
Using a mouthwash that is antiseptic or antibacterial is a great way to supplement brushing and flossing and maintain better oral hygiene. Floss, brush, and then gargle so the mouthwash is a final rinse to carry out residual food particles.
Take Calcium Supplements
As we age, we can lose calcium which will affect our teeth and bones. Osteoporosis is a large problem for seniors, especially women, that can break down the bones around your teeth. Your jawbone supports the teeth and when the jawbone gets weaker from osteoporosis, it can cause loose teeth and tooth loss. Taking a calcium supplement significantly strengthens bone and tooth health.
Avoid Using Tobacco
Tobacco is a significant cause of gum disease and can cause teeth to fall out. Chewing and smoking tobacco can cause stained teeth, tooth decay, and gum disease and have been linked to throat and mouth cancer, heart disease, and other serious life-threatening problems.
Eat Less Sugar
Sugar in foods and drinks can lead to more cavities, tooth decay, and gum disease. Always brush immediately after having a sweet dessert or drink.
Schedule a Checkup with Hamby Family Dental Center Today
The dental team at Hamby Family Dental Center knows the unique concerns of elderly patients. As you age, we can work with you to maintain your oral health. Contact us today for a teeth cleaning and checkup so we can help you prevent oral issues or correct problems you may have. Call us at 919-552-2431 or fill out the form below.