It seems there are certain tasks that fall to the wayside as we grow older, one of which is dental care.
However, we only get one set of permanent teeth, and dentures cost a lot – therefore these precious parts of us should be a priority when it comes to personal hygiene. Around 75% of adults 60 years and older only have a portion of their original teeth remaining, according to the Washington Dental Service Foundation (WDSF). Issues like severe gum disease, as well as other oral health issues, can contribute to the loss of your natural teeth. However, these conditions can be avoided if proper dental hygiene for seniors is made a priority.
In this article, we will discuss the importance of oral hygiene for seniors and how to keep your teeth looking and feeling healthy and strong.
Medical Problems Associated with Oral Health
A seniors’ health and well-being is severely impacted by the negative effects of decaying teeth, gum disease and tooth loss. In addition, poor dental hygiene has been linked to increasing the risk of diabetes and heart disease, and is known to be related to pneumonia. As if that wasn’t enough, the risk of gum disease is also heightened when a senior neglect their oral health.
It grows increasingly difficult to maintain a healthy diet when you are missing teeth or experiencing oral pain. Seniors feel self-conscious when their oral health is on the decline. Make this important part of one’s health a top priority.
How Age Affects Dental Health
Our oral health is not always directly affected by our age.
That said, there are certain medical conditions that can make brushing and flossing teeth difficult, if not impossible to perform. For example, arthritis in fingers and hands can make one of the basic activities of daily living painful or difficult. Additionally, some people are born with genetically predisposed to problems with our dental health. The use of drugs, or even necessary prescription medications, can affect oral health. As can being neglectful with brushing our teeth or if you suffer from cognitive health issues, like dementia or Alzheimer’s disease.
Considering the negative effects of bad oral hygiene, it is essential that seniors get the dental care they need. Make sure to schedule regular dental checkups every six months, and make senior dental care a priority.
Tips for Improving Dental Hygiene
Most conditions can be prevented by simply maintaining a basic daily dental care routine. Seniors can avoid dental complications with regular teeth brushing and flossing. In addition, regular dentist appointments should be kept rigorously, so that any oral disease that may come will be caught quickly before damage can occur.
Remember to brush teeth twice a day, and floss teeth once daily. For those seniors who are unable to brush or floss their own teeth, a nurse or caregiver should do so for you. The use of an electric toothbrush is a great way to ensure you are doing a thorough job. Antiseptic mouthwash rinse can also help prevent certain oral hygiene issues.
If you wear dentures, remember to thoroughly clean them and disinfect them on a daily basis. Dental experts recommend removing dentures, or partial dentures for at least four hours per day. Drink plenty of water, particularly tap water as it contains fluoride in most areas. Always consume a healthy and well rounded diet. Be aware of the signs of dental care related diseases, as the sooner they are noticed, the quicker a plan of action can be made.
What Seniors Can Expect During Dental Exams
When seniors visit their dentist, a thorough dental exam will take place. In addition, most dentists will inquire about your previous dental history. Questions will be asked during your dentist appointment, such as:
- Have you noticed any recent changes to your mouth?
- What was the date, approximately, when you last visited a dentist, and what was the reason for your dental visit?
- Have any of your teeth become sensitive or loose?
- Are you noticing a difficulty chewing, swallowing or tasting your food?
- Are you experiencing any discomfort, sores, or unexplained bleeding in your mouth?
- Have any bumps, lumps, or swelling formed in your mouth?
The oral hygienist will check your mouth and teeth for several things. First, they will examin your neck and face for any skin discoloration. From there, your bite will be examined, then your jaw and inner cheeks. The dentist will take a look at your tongue and other interior areas in search of infection or oral cancer. Last, but not least, they will examine your teeth for decay and the condition of each tooth, as well as the current state of any previous fillings or cracks.
When all is said and done, senior oral care should be made a priority. Don’t let other health concerns get in the way of taking care of your mouth. There is a lot on the line when it comes to the health of our teeth and mouth, don’t lose grip of the importance it plays in one’s overall well-being.