Dental health plays a big part in overall health from the time we are young into our senior years. As youth face dental challenges from teething and losing baby teeth to cutting new teeth and keeping those teeth healthy and aligned, seniors experience physiological and condition-related dental health changes that require extra attention to dental hygiene.
At age 65 and over, such changes may include dry mouth, root or coronal decay, gum disease, decreased sense of taste, and/or increased sensitivity to anesthetics and analgesics. To minimize challenges with changes, it’s important that seniors stay on top of their dental health.
Note: Each individual should follow the advice of their medical professionals and speak with them before making changes to
Taking the Best Actions for a Healthy Mouth
There are measures that seniors can take that can help prevent or assist with dental health issues. If you try a method and find it isn’t working, try taking multiple actions. All mouth environments are unique and what works for some may not work for others.
• For dry mouth, drinking water throughout the day and limiting alcohol and high-sugar/high-caffeine beverages can help. Other helpers may include: oral moisturizers, sugar-free gum/ lozenges to stimulate saliva production, a humidifier to keep air moist, or speaking to a medical professional about changing a medication or dosage.
• For keeping gums healthy, teeth should be brushed twice daily with fluoride toothpaste. Flossing should be done daily to remove plaque from between teeth. Visit the dentist regularly.
• To prevent decay, practice good oral hygiene.: Brush with a rotating toothbrush. Use topical fluoride, such as daily mouth rinses, high fluoride toothpaste, or regular fluoride varnish application. If one has dentures, they need to be cleaned each day with denture cleaner.
• Also, follow a healthy diet.
Some Oral Hygiene Facts
These facts may be comforting and/or helpful toward those who face dental issues in their older years. For those who don’t, we pose the question, Did you know?
• The number of older adults who retain their natural teeth is increasing.
• Dry mouth affects 30 percent of adults over 65, primarily due to prescription medications. It is more likely to occur in those who take more than four, daily. Certain conditions, such as Diabetes, Alzheimer’s, or Parkinson’s can also cause dry mouth.
• A main reason gum disease is so widespread among older adults is that it’s often painless until it reaches an advanced stage, at which point symptoms can include: sore, bleeding gums; chewing issues; recessed gums; or tooth loss.
• Acidic foods can erode enamel, and crunchy foods like chips or crackers can lead to build up between teeth. For dental health, turn to low-sugar dairy, lean proteins, low-acidic fruits and vegetables, nuts, and high-fiber foods.
• Dental procedure financing can be stressful to think about. The National Council on Aging has a page of information and resources.
Dental health may not be at the forefront of your thoughts until the pain of a dental issue comes up. At that point, it’s more difficult to deal with – in many ways – than taking preventative measures would have been. Take an honest inventory of your dental health habits and consider these tips. Let us know if they benefit you. We always appreciate reader feedback.