Taking excellent care of your teeth and gums is important throughout your life. When we are young, we develop healthy habits of daily brushing and flossing to avoid cavities and keep our teeth white and healthy. As we age, taking care of our teeth remains an essential part of our everyday health and hygiene routine. That means seniors have special considerations when it comes to their oral health. Elderly dental care is important in maintaining seniors’ overall quality of life, as senior citizens are susceptible to oral conditions that younger people can more easily avoid, including tooth decay and gum disease.
Elderly dental care recognizes the effects of aging on the teeth and gums and understands how a lifetime of habits, whether helpful or unhelpful, contributes to the current state of one’s oral health. When oral hygiene has been neglected, dental health for seniors can become more complicated, with more care and oversight necessary. To avoid major health concerns, it is important that seniors follow a strict regimen of tooth and mouth care.
10 Tips for Elderly Dental Care
Visit the Dentist
Regularly scheduled visits to the dentist are crucial for senior dental health. Infrequent visits, or no visits at all, can allow time for problems to worsen and become more severe. Seniors should make appointments for cleanings at least twice a year or as directed by their dentist.
Maintaining a regular appointment schedule is one of the most important things you can do for your oral health. Your dentist can talk to you about what kind of care is needed for your teeth and keep a watch out for any conditions that can be diagnosed early on before they become a serious health problem for you.
Most often we hear doctors and dentists recommend that everyone brush their teeth twice a day, once in the morning and once before bed. Some dentists may also advise that patients brush their teeth between meals. Brushing twice a day should be a well-established routine for many seniors, but for those who are making improvements to their oral hygiene routine, making a regular twice-daily practice is an absolute necessity.
Many dentists recommend electric toothbrushes to improve brushing techniques. Whether you choose electric or not, be sure to change your toothbrush or toothbrush head every three months at a minimum. You will also want to be sure you are using the bristle strength that’s right for you. Most dentists will recommend using a soft toothbrush for seniors, but for those with certain gum conditions, your dentist may recommend hard. You should use a toothpaste that is dentist recommended and contains fluoride. Remember to brush for a full two minutes each time.
Flossing is a very important part of oral healthcare, however, many people do not take the time to floss every day. With daily flossing, seniors can improve their dental health outcomes and reduce the risk of cavities and gum disease. Flossing is a quick and easy way to take care of your teeth and the benefits far outway any perceived inconvenience.
If you have bridges or other hardware in your mouth flossing can be a bit more difficult. Your dental hygienist will go over exact flossing procedures with you at your cleaning so you know exactly how to floss under wires, etc.
Rinse with Mouthwash
Using an antiseptic or antibacterial mouthwash one to two times daily is an excellent way to supplement your brushing and flossing routine. It is recommended that you floss, brush, and then gargle with mouthwash. Using mouthwash as the last step is helpful because you may be less inclined to floss and brush effectively if your mouth already feels clean. Alcohol-free mouthwash is available at any pharmacy and is less aggressive in terms of taste but is every bit as effective for your oral health.
Take Calcium Supplements
Calcium is an important part of dental health for seniors. Many of us do not get enough calcium in our diets when we are older. Seniors, especially, need to increase their calcium intake in order to maintain the best possible oral health. Seniors are more susceptible to osteoporosis than other subsets of the population. Osteoporosis can break down the bones around your teeth and can be a serious health problem. Increasing your calcium intake can combat osteoporosis and keep your teeth as strong and healthy as possible.
Take Care of Your Dentures, Mouthguard, and/or Oral Appliances
Very often, elderly dental care includes the use of dentures. Your dentist will give you very specific instructions on how to properly care for your dentures and it is important that you follow this advice. If your dentures give you pain, discomfort, or other troubles, it is important to see your dentist so he/she can look into the issue. It is also recommended that seniors who use dentures have regular check-ins, at least once a year, with their dentist.
Avoid Tobacco Products
Tobacco can cause serious problems for your overall health and your oral health. Stained teeth are a common side effect of tobacco use. Chewing tobacco can cause tooth decay and all forms of tobacco are associated with throat and mouth cancer, heart disease, and other serious and life-threatening problems. If you use tobacco your dentist can help you develop a plan for cessation. It’s never too late to quit!
Consume Less Sugar
Eating sugary foods and drinking sugary drinks can lead to cavities and cause tooth decay and gum disease. If you do eat a sugary dessert or have a sweet tea or soda as an occasional treat, just be sure to brush your teeth immediately afterward.
Many medications can cause dry mouth which can lead to enamel erosion. To avoid dry mouth you can ask your doctor to switch your medications if necessary, or you can increase your water intake. Drinking plenty of water every day is essential to all areas of your health. The exact amount of water you need varies depending on factors like body weight, energy output, and climate, but the typical recommendation is to drink 64 ounces of water each day.
Remember How Important Elderly Dental Care Is to Your Overall Health
Take your dental health seriously and call your dentist if you have any pain, discomfort. or tooth loss. Early detection and treatment of dental problems can go a long way in preventing further complications for your dental health as well as your overall health and wellbeing.
If you have questions about dental health for seniors, get in touch with the Cano Health team today. We want you to be proud of your smile and maintain the best possible oral health.