Why dental care is important for older adults
Good oral hygiene is important at any age. But as you get older, you may be more prone to oral health problems like gum disease and tooth decay. This means taking care of your oral health needs extra attention.
Dental care is also important for you to enjoy food comfortably. Good oral health will make you speak and smile with confidence and improves your quality of life as well.
What happens to teeth as you age
Certain oral problems may develop as you age. Many of these problems can be identified, solved, or prevented as long as you’re aware of their signs and symptoms. Here are some of these oral health problems.
· Dry Mouth
Getting older doesn’t necessarily make the mouth dry. But certain factors of aging like regular medication can increase your risk for dry mouth. Your saliva is your natural cavity fighter. Without it, plaque sticks to your teeth, increasing the risk of cavities.
This is also known as wear and tear. Many years of chewing and grinding gradually weaken the teeth and wears down enamel. When this happens, the risk of cavities increases.
· Mouth Disease
As you age, you also became prone to mouth diseases like oral thrush or oral cancer. Oral thrush is the abnormal growth of the fungus Candida albicans in the mouth.
· Periodontal Disease
Periodontal disease, also known as gum disease, is caused by the formation of plaque on the teeth. It is one of the major causes of tooth loss in older adults.
· Sensitive Teeth
Your gums recede over time and may expose areas of the teeth that are not covered by enamel. This may cause sensitivity and it can be an increasing problem as you age.
· Root Decay
Root decay is often accompanied by periodontal disease. As your gum recede, the roots of your teeth may uncover, increasing the rate of decay.
How to brush the teeth properly
You’ve been brushing your teeth since you were young and would probably know the basics. But as you get old, your teeth and gums will need extra care. Here are the steps in brushing your teeth.
· Brush your teeth with fluoride toothpaste. Fluoride helps in preventing tooth decay and gum disease.
· Hold your brush at a 45-degree angle so that bristles point to your gum line.
· Use gentle circular motions instead of back-and-forth scrubbing. Be careful not to apply too much pressure or brush too hard. Also, make sure to only brush in the direction that your tooth grows in.
· Brush the front, top, and back of your teeth as well as between them.
· Brush your teeth for two minutes. To ensure thorough cleaning, you can divide your mouth into four areas and spend 30 seconds on each zone.
· If you are using an electric toothbrush, set the brush on two teeth and let it do its thing.
Tips on choosing the right toothbrush
When choosing the right toothbrush, both the manual and electric ones are effective. But you have to make sure that it is soft-bristled. A hard-bristled toothbrush can brush away enamel and gum tissues, especially when used with force.
Many electric toothbrushes have larger handles. This can be a good option because it is easier and more comfortable to hold. But some electric toothbrushes may have strong vibrations. For elders with arthritis, these vibrations may cause them to drop the toothbrush.
When you have a problem holding a toothbrush, you can wrap the handle in a washcloth for better grip. Your toothbrush must also be replaced after 3 months, or earlier when the bristles start to wear out.
Other oral health tips for seniors
· Visit a dentist regularly.
A regular dental visit is important for your dental health. Irregular visits or not visiting at all can allow time for dental problems to worsen. You should visit your dentist for cleanings at least twice a year. Your dentist can also tell you of what care is needed for your teeth.
Flossing can reduce the risk of tooth decay and gum disease. You should do this at least once a day.
· Use an antibacterial mouthwash.
Gargling with an antibacterial mouthwash is a great way to reduce the build-up of plaque. You can use an alcohol-free mouthwash. This mouthwash has a less intense taste but is effective in washing away bacteria, bad breath, and other problems.
· Avoid tobacco.
Tobacco has been associated with an increased risk of mouth and throat cancer. Chewing tobacco also leads to more decay because most tobacco products contain sugar.
· Increase oral hydration.
Ask your doctor if you can substitute your medications with something that doesn’t cause dry mouth. You can drink plenty of water if there’s no available substitute. You can also chew sugar-free gum to produce more saliva.
· Consume less sugar.
Consuming sugary foods and drinks can lead to cavities causing tooth decay and gum disease. If you take any sugary food or drink, make sure to brush your teeth immediately afterward.
· Take calcium supplements.
The American Dental Association suggests that older adults need 1000mg of calcium a day to prevent osteoporosis. Osteoporosis can break down the bone surrounding your teeth. It can cause serious dental problems when this happens.
Taking care of dentures
Dentures can make life easier for many seniors. These must fit well and are comfortable to wear. Oftentimes, your dentist will give you specific instructions on how to take care of your dentures. Following your dentist’s advice is important. Keeping your dentures clean prevents swollen gums, bad breath, and stains.
You must see your dentist if your denture is giving you any discomfort or pain. Your tongue, gums, and palate should also be brushed when you clean your dentures.
Older adults have a higher risk of developing oral health problems. So it’s important to take extra care of your teeth. You can prevent oral health problems by using fluoride toothpaste, the right toothbrush, and a proper brushing technique. like real teeth, dentures need proper care as well. Overall, our oral health plays a big role in our well-being.