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The Importance of Promoting Good Oral Health Among Seniors

Dec 13 2017


Photo by Lotte Meijer on Unsplash

By Jess Walter

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention nearly 96 percent of adults aged 65 and older have had a cavity at some point in their lives, with one in five suffering from untreated tooth decay. A very high percentage of older adults are also said to have gum disease with nearly one in five seniors in the USA having lost all of their teeth. Total tooth loss is twice as common in seniors older than 75 compared to those between the ages of 65 and 74. As far as oral cancer is concerned, it is primarily diagnosed in older adults with the median age of diagnosis being 62 years.

As we get older it is natural to assume that certain parts of our bodies are prone to wearing out and developing problems as a result of prolonged use. This assumption is particularly common with regards to our teeth as many people assume that they will lose them eventually, regardless of their lifestyles. Luckily this isn’t true and by taking good care of your mouth as you age you can maintain healthy teeth and gums for the duration of your life, allowing you to continue eating delicious foods while communicating with confidence. As an added benefit, practicing good dental hygiene can promote overall increased health and wellbeing.

Why is senior dental health of such importance?

Your dental health is connected to your entire body as the bacteria that lives and grows in your mouth can travel throughout your entire body, often causing severe health implications. Bacteria that travel from the mouth into the bloodstream and to the heart can contribute to the token inflammation of heart disease that can cause a major cardiac event in the future. The same oral bacteria can also end up in the lungs where it can cause infections while increasing your risk of pneumonia, a huge concern, especially for seniors. Seniors with diabetes experience an increased risk of gum disease making it vitally important for a diabetic to control their blood sugar levels.

Ensuring dental health as a senior

Aging may be an unavoidable part of life but that doesn’t mean you have to struggle throughout it. By following a few simple dental health tips you can enjoy your golden years bearing a healthy, happy smile for the world to see.

It is a common oral hygiene rule to brush your teeth at least twice a day. As you age, however, your mouth will require a little more attention as plaque becomes harder to get rid of after the age of 50. Getting into the habit of brushing your teeth after every meal, as well as flossing consistently, will significantly decrease your risk of cavities and gum disease.

Use an electric toothbrush and be gentle on your gums

A soft-bristled electric toothbrush is a great dental tool for all ages, especially seniors with arthritis as the brush itself does all the work. Healthy gums are as important as healthy teeth, but require a much gentler approach. Recession of the gums causes the roots of the teeth to become exposed, making them a lot more susceptible to sensitivity and decay. Never employ a heavy-handed approach when brushing or flossing as it can cause tremendous damage to your gums.

Use a mouthwash and drink a lot of water

Using a good-quality mouthwash is a great way to prevent cavities while promoting overall oral health. It is important, however, to not use your mouthwash too often as it can alter the pH balance in your mouth. Rinsing your mouth with mouthwash once a day before bedtime is more than enough. Make sure you drink a lot of water as it holds numerous benefits for both your teeth and gums. Fluoridated water, in particular, will not only strengthen your teeth but prevent cavities and tooth decay as well.

Visit the dentist often

As you get older the nerves inside your mouth become a lot less sensitive, resulting in dental issues that you may not even be aware of. Visiting your dentist for regular oral exams and cleanings is very important when it comes to maintaining good oral health during your senior years. A trip to the dentist may be seen as a financial burden to many seniors but, depending on their state of residence, Medicaid may cover certain dental expenses, such as emergency dental procedures.

Looking after your teeth is as important as looking after the rest of your body and should be a priority throughout your life regardless of your age. The earlier you start looking after your mouth the easier it will be to make it a habit to carry into your senior years, resulting in less worries and dental expenses as you grow older.