Every life stage has its specific and unique needs and considerations when it comes to dental care. The same is when we reach advanced age. Good oral health is extremely important for the overall quality of life of seniors. So, how to maintain healthy teeth and gums in your senior years?
Good oral health affects the quality of life in general because you are able to chew food properly and without pain, which means you do not have to give up on foods you enjoy. Moreover, you will be able to taste what you are chewing. Also, you will reduce the likelihood of developing other health issues. And the last but not the least, you will save money in the long run.
However, the access to regular dental care of often difficult for seniors due to limited medical coverage and high costs as well as the inability to provide adequate dental care for themselves. All these factors leave seniors at risk of developing tooth decay, gum disease, etc. until there is no other option than tooth extraction. So, what steps to take in order to reduce the possibility of any dental problems?
First and foremost, proper home care and regular dental checkups are the essence of good oral hygiene. Regardless of your age, you can keep your teeth and gums healthy by brushing twice a day with fluoride toothpaste, rinsing with a mouthwash, flossing daily and seeing your dentist regularly for professional cleanings and checkups. However, even if you practice adequate oral hygiene at home, certain oral health issues may develop in your senior years. Fortunately, your dentist can help you meet most of these challenges quite successfully.
Cavities and tooth decay are more common in older adults. Thus, it is extremely important to brush with fluoride toothpaste, floss daily and visit your dentist regularly. Tooth sensitivity can be an increasing problem as people age. Consequently, teeth hurt when in contact with extremely cold or hot foods or drinks. If you experience sensitivity, try special sensitivity toothpaste. If the sensitivity does not decrease, see your dentist because the sensitivity may be an indication of a more serious condition, such as a cavity or a cracked or fractured tooth. Dry mouth caused by medications is also a common issue in seniors. If left untreated, dry mouth can potentially damage your teeth. Try various methods to restore moisture in your mouth, your dentist can recommend what suits you best. Some health conditions such as heart disease, diabetes, or cancer can have effect on your oral overall health. When visiting your dentist, let him know if you have any health issues, so that he or she can help you meet your special requirements. Dentures are a useful part of life for many seniors. However, dentures require special care because ill-fitting dentures and plaque build-up cause inflammation of the tissue. Thus, follow your dentist’s instructions about taking care of dentures carefully and see your dentist if any problems arise. It is recommended to have an annual checkup. Gum disease is a potentially serious condition that affects people after the age of 40. It is caused by factors such as lousy oral hygiene, bad diet and diseases, such as heart disease, diabetes and cancer, certain medications as well as factors such as such as: stress and smoking. It is important to know that early detection of gum disease is crucial because early stage is treatable. The best option would, however, be to prevent gum disease from developing in the first place, by practicing proper oral hygiene. Here is how to practice a good oral hygiene for seniors:
- Maintain adequate oral hygiene by brushing, flossing and rinsing with mouthwash daily.
- Use special toothbrushes to clean hard-to-reach areas of the mouth.
- Know the symptoms and warning signs of conditions that can damage your teeth, such as tooth sensitivity, teeth grinding, cracked, chipped, fractures and loose teeth, dry mouth syndrome.
- Visit your dentist regularly for dental hygiene checkups or as often as he or she recommends.
- Maintain dentures and dental bridges properly.
- If you are having a surgery, it is advisable to see your dentist before and after the procedure.
- Inform your dentist about any medications and medical conditions you may have.
- If you have certain medical conditions, such as arthritis in the hands, brushing or flossing may become difficult or even impossible to perform. You may ask for assistance or ask your dentist to recommend innovations developed to make oral hygiene simple and effective, e.g. floss holders or battery-operated toothbrush if you have difficulties moving toothbrush, suction machine for people who have trouble swallowing or spitting or a suction toothbrush. Avoid regular toothpaste because it foams too much and it may be difficult to handle. Use fluoride toothpaste instead.
No matter how old you are, dental hygiene is always a priority because it directly affects all of our daily routines and things in life we enjoy – eating, smiling, talking and laughing. By maintaining good oral hygiene you protect both your teeth and your overall health for life.