The Importance of Good Dental Hygiene for Seniors

senior dental careTaking care of your teeth and gums is important throughout your life, but advancing age can put seniors more at risk for a variety of dental issues. Conditions like arthritis might make it difficult to practice good dental hygiene on a daily basis, or memory loss may cause some seniors to forget to brush and floss their teeth altogether. Plus, changes in the mouth can lead to other health problems for some of the elderly population. However, with the proper care and regular visits to the dentist, it’s possible for your teeth and gums to stay in great condition as you age.

Common Dental Care Issues Seniors Face

Some of the common issues seniors face when it comes to oral hygiene include:

  • Cavities and root decay. Older adults often face more cavities and decay on the root surfaces of the teeth. Root decay is common as the roots become exposed when the gum tissue recedes from the tooth.
  • Darkened teeth. Usually caused by changes in dentin, the bone-like tissues under the tooth enamel, as well as years of consuming foods and drinks that can stain the teeth. Also, sometimes the enamel can thin, causing the darker yellow dentin to be revealed.
  • Increased sensitivity. As your gums recede over time, areas of the teeth not protected by enamel become exposed and can be sensitive to hot, cold sweet or sour foods. Sometimes, sensitivity is a sign of a more serious condition like a cracked tooth or a cavity.
  • Dry mouth. One of the most common oral health issues in seniors is dry mouth, and it usually occurs due to medication side effects that reduce saliva flow.
  • Dentures. While dentures are helpful for many seniors, they do require special care that can sometimes be difficult to maintain on a daily basis.
  • Decreased sense of taste. Another common medication side effect that seniors face is a diminished sense of taste. Certain oral diseases or dentures can also affect our sense of taste as we age, too.
  • Gum disease. Gum disease tends to affect people over the age of 40 more so than younger individuals. It’s caused by poor oral hygiene or a bad diet, as well as diseases like diabetes or heart disease. Also, those who smoke or drink alcohol regularly are more at risk for gum disease.

Senior Dental Care Tips

First of all, the most important senior dental care tip to maintain good oral health is to visit your dentist regularly, at least twice every year. At your exam, you can discuss any issues you may be experiencing; if you’ve noticed any changes in your teeth or gums, any increased sensitivity or loose teeth, pain, discomfort, bleeding or sores.

Secondly, practice good oral hygiene by brushing your teeth at least twice each day, especially after meals and before bedtime.  Use a toothpaste with fluoride, as fluoride provides extra protection against dental decay no matter your age. Also at bedtime, make sure to floss your teeth and rinse with an antiseptic mouthwash to help reduce bacteria that cause plaque and gum disease. If necessary, make lifestyle changes like quitting tobacco and limiting alcohol, as these substances increase the risk for periodontal disease and throat or oral cancers.

For more information about American Senior Communities, please visit www.ASCSeniorCare.com.

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