Seniors and Oral Care: How to Care for Your Mouth as You Age

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One of the key characteristics among those who age gracefully is the ability to accept change.  As we get older, our preferences change, our bodies change, and so do many of our needs.  But the importance of maintaining good oral health does not change. Whether you have all your own teeth, a fixed bridge here and there, or whole arches of dentures or implants, maintaining proper oral hygiene is as important as ever.

As is true with so many other parts of your body, the older you get, the more the wear and tear of daily living begins to show. And when it comes to your teeth, that wear and tear can put you at risk for gum disease, tooth loss, root decay, uneven jawbone, and more. While adaptability may indeed be a key aspect of aging gracefully, daily oral care and regular visits to your dentist should remain constant.

Oral Hygiene Tips for Seniors

Address your dry mouth

As you get older, you may become accustomed to parts of your body that don’t work as well as they used to.  You might, for instance, ignore aches in your joints, or you might shrug off your inability to sleep as well as you used to.  But one thing you should not ignore is dry mouth, which can lead to gum disease, cavities, and other oral health problems. Older individuals may have dry mouth for any number of reasons, including chronic conditions or side effects of medication. Regardless of the reason, discuss your dry mouth with your dentist, who may recommend a moisturizing mouthwash, sugar-free gum (to encourage saliva production), or an artificial saliva product.

Use fluoride toothpaste

Older individuals, like children and teenagers, are at a high risk for cavities. Fluoride is doubly important in the latter years when time has taken its toll on teeth and gums. Using fluoride toothpaste twice daily can help protect your teeth from tooth decay, which, untreated, can lead to tooth loss. Drinking fluoridated tap water can give you an added layer of defense. If you have a history of cavities from your earlier years, talk to your dentist about fluoride treatments during your biannual appointments as well.

Keep an eye on your gums

Gum disease is the leading cause of tooth loss. The bacteria in gum disease has also been linked to stroke and heart disease. And while it’s true that diabetes can be a risk factor for gum disease, it is also true that gum disease can make diabetes worse. Yes, what we’re trying to say is that gum disease is a big deal. It can be caused by plaque, food left in the teeth, poor diet, poor-fitting bridges and dentures, and diseases such as anemia, cancer, and diabetes.  It’s important that you watch for changes in your gums, and alert your dentist if you notice any inflammation, redness, or bleeding.  Keeping your biannual appointments will allow your dentist to perform regular exams and address any issues before they become a problem for you.

Address your missing teeth right away

Although it may seem easy enough to “get away with” not replacing missing teeth (especially those in the back), it’s never a good idea to leave gaps in your mouth.  Your alveolar bone, which anchors your teeth to your jaw, actually thrives by having the job of holding your teeth in place.  When you leave gaps in your mouth, you deprive this bone of its function, and this can cause your alveolar bone to dissolve. Addressing your missing teeth right away can help prevent uneven jawbone, uneven teeth, and potential jawbone loss.

Care for your dentures

If you have dentures, you know they play as vital a role in your daily life as your teeth once did. Although the specific steps you take to care for your dentures (or partial dentures) may differ from the steps you took with your natural teeth, the care you do take should be consistent. It’s important to clean your dentures on a daily basis with toothpaste specially made for dentures. You should also remove bacteria and food particles from your mouth by brushing your gums and tongue with a soft toothbrush. An improper fit can lead to other problems with your oral health, so be sure to alert your dentist if you experience chaffing or discomfort.

One more tip for graceful aging

What better way to age gracefully than to freely share your beautiful smile? At Soft Touch Dental in San Diego, want to help you do exactly that. Please give us a call. Let’s work together to keep your smile strong and healthy.