Throughout our lives, oral health is important to our overall health. As we get older, however, we face new challenges in caring for our mouths. Dental care is extremely important in maintaining seniors’ quality of life. That’s why we’d like to take this opportunity to discuss the unique dental issues that older people face, offering some tips for helping them take care of their teeth.
The risk of certain dental health issues increases as we age. These include tooth problems, like darkened teeth caused by changes in tooth enamel, tooth loss, and root decay. Seniors are also at risk for dry mouth, a diminished sense of taste, and gum disease. Tooth loss can result in an uneven jawbone, and different factors can combine to cause denture-induced stomatitis, an inflammation of the tissue underlying the dentures. These things don’t happen just because of age, but can be caused by a combination of factors, like medical conditions and medication. Issues with the mouth need to be handled promptly because the oral health can affect other systems in the body, like the cardiovascular system. There are steps that seniors can take, however, to protect their oral health.
- Keep teeth clean. Because plaque can build up quickly on the teeth of older people, leading to tooth decay and gum disease, proper oral hygiene is vital. Brush at least twice daily with fluoride toothpaste, floss at least once a day, and rinse with an antiseptic or antibacterial mouthwash to help reduce bacteria.
- Consider calcium supplements. Many older people do not get enough calcium in their diets, and this can be detrimental to their oral health. Osteoporosis disproportionately affects seniors and can break down the bones around the teeth. By increasing calcium intake, seniors can protect themselves from osteoporosis and keep their teeth strong and healthy.
- Take care of dental appliances like dentures. Older people who wear dentures must be careful to follow all instructions for proper denture care. Dentures shouldn’t cause pain or discomfort, so if they do, make sure to talk to your dentist. Dentures, along with other oral appliances like mouthguards, should be checked at least once a year.
- Don’t use tobacco. Aside from stained teeth, tobacco can cause tooth decay, heart disease, throat and mouth cancer, and other life-threatening issues. If you use tobacco, quitting will allow your body to instantly begin the healing process.
- Limit sugar. Sugary foods and beverages can lead to cavities, tooth decay, and gum disease. If you do decide to indulge your sweet tooth, be sure to thoroughly brush your teeth afterward.
- Stay hydrated. Dry mouth, which is often caused by medications, can lead to enamel erosion. Increasing your water intake can help with dry mouth as well as all other areas of health. The general recommendation is to consume 64 ounces of water each day, but the exact amount you need depends on many different factors, like energy output, climate, and body weight.
- Visit the dentist. Regular dental visits can help you stay on top of your oral health because the dentist can catch problems before they become major issues. Seniors should have dental appointments at least twice a year, and the dentist may sometimes recommend them more frequently. During a dental exam, the dentist will ask questions about changes in your mouth, sensitivity, difficulty tasting, chewing, or swallowing, pain, sores, or bleeding, or any lumps or bumps. You’ll have a thorough exam, with the dentist checking your face, neck, bite, jaw, lymph nodes, salivary glands, inner cheeks, tongue and other interior mouth surfaces, as well as your teeth. The dentist will also check the fit of your dentures or other appliances. The exam is meant to determine not only dental issues, but also problems like infection or oral cancer.
At Parkwood Heights, we prioritize the health and happiness of our residents. That’s one of the reasons this is a great place to live your best life. A lovely community in which to spend your retirement, Parkwood Heights is located just minutes from Victor, Fairport, Farmington, and Canandaigua. Our picturesque, 122-acre senior living campus affords many opportunities to enjoy your time with friends and family while enjoying our scenic setting. Call (315) 986-9100 to learn more about all that we have to offer or check out our website and reach out if you have any questions.