We all learn about the importance of caring for your teeth as children but the issues that come along with aging can sometimes make it more difficult for some seniors to properly care for their teeth. This may lead to certain dental problems they might not have experienced when they were younger.
According to the Institute on Aging, 28% of seniors end up in skilled nursing homes. The remaining 72% of seniors grow older in their homes alone, or with families and caregivers who may not understand the importance of continued oral health and how it impacts overall health. It’s easy for older adults to focus only on the bigger health issues like heart disease, dementia, arthritis, diabetes, and cancer, but maintaining overall health requires maintenance of the sometimes less obvious areas like oral health.
Many people don’t realize that oral health ties directly into overall health and when you neglect one, you neglect the other. Researchers have found that people with periodontal disease are almost twice as likely to have heart disease. Gum disease has been linked to an array of serious health problems such as diabetes, heart disease, and stroke.
Here are 3 things you can do to improve and care for your oral health in your senior years.
1. Continue Your Oral Hygiene Routine
The oral hygiene routine you developed as a child is even more important to maintain in your senior years. Continue brushing your teeth twice a day and flossing at least once a day. Plaque can build up quickly on seniors’ teeth because it grows faster and is more likely to harden into tartar if neglected.
If you have arthritis, you may find that you have trouble brushing and flossing but there are solutions. Be sure to talk to your dentist about any difficulties you’re having so they can make personalized recommendations to help you maintain your oral hygiene.
2. Visit Your Dentist Regularly
Generally speaking, you should visit your dentist every 6 months, but your dentist may suggest a different frequency depending on your needs. If you are struggling to brush or floss or if you’re dealing with dry mouth from any medications you’re taking, don’t wait until your next biannual visit.
These issues are important to tackle head on and your dentist can help you so don’t hesitate to reach out even if your next regular appointment isn’t for another 6 months. Your oral health is important and waiting can make the problem much harder to deal with.
3. Be Aware Of Oral Health Issues That Seniors Face
Did you know that cavities and decay on the root surfaces of the teeth are more common in older adults? Most people don’t, so they don’t know how to prevent these issues from impacting their oral health. In some seniors, poor oral health can result in a bacterial invasion that can cause result in the harboring of pneumococcal bacteria which can lead to pneumonia.
Sensitivity is a common issue for older adults. This is because your gums naturally recede over time, exposing areas of the tooth that are not protected by enamel. Dry mouth is another common issue for older adults and it is one that may seem deceptively innocuous. We meet plenty of people who have just accepted that they have to deal with dry mouth without knowing that left untreated, dry mouth can damage your teeth and lead to increased decay. You don’t have to just deal with it either! Your dentist can recommend various methods to restore moisture in your mouth.
Many seniors have dentures, which are incredibly helpful for many people, but if they don’t fit properly they can cause problems. If you’re an older adult with dentures, be sure to follow your dentist’s instructions about how long to wear them. Removing your dentures is important because it gives your gum tissue time to rest and be cleaned by your saliva and tongue. Even if you think your dentures fit properly, ask your dentist to check the fit on a regular basis.
When you look after your oral health as a senior, you’ll be better able to look after your overall health.