Did you know that aging impacts your oral health?
It’s important to stay on top of your oral health, starting from a young age, building healthy habits that last forever. It is possible to have healthy teeth that last a lifetime. And there are things that you can do to have a healthy mouth for years to come.
It’s especially important to practice good dental habits the older you get, because certain dental conditions are associated with aging, such as dry mouth, cavities, and periodontitis, also known as gum disease.
Here are a few things to be aware of, and dental tips that I recommend.
Get two dental checkups per year, no matter how old you are.
As you get older, the nerves in your teeth can get smaller, which makes it more difficult to feel cavities and gum disease. For this reason, dental checkups are increasingly important, because your dentist can catch oral issues you may otherwise not be aware of. Issues can be detected early, while they’re still small and easier to treat.
Make sure you tell your dentist what medications you’re taking.
Older adults may use several prescription and over-the-counter medications. Some of these medications can cause dry mouth. Dry mouth can also be a side effect of medical conditions, such as Sjogren’s syndrome, Alzheimer’s disease, diabetes, anemia, rheumatoid arthritis, hypertension, Parkinson’s disease, and stroke. Dry mouth can lead to other issues, too, like mucositis, cavities, cracked lips, bad breath, or problem speaking or trouble tasting, chewing, and swallowing.
Drinking water can help wash away cavity-causing bacteria.
Try tap water, which also has fluoride to help strengthen your teeth. And ask your dentist what other remedies may be able to help.
Always brush your teeth twice a day for two minutes.
Following the American Dental Association’s guidelines helps to reduce cavity-causing plaque and lowers your risk of gum disease. Unfortunately, most people only brush for about 45 seconds. But by brushing for two full minutes, you can remove more plaque. Remember to replace your toothbrush every three to four months. Fresh bristles clean more effectively. An electric toothbrush is another great option, especially if you have difficulty holding things with your hands.
Floss once a day.
As I mentioned, gum disease is more common among older adults, and flossing is another way to reduce your risk. Floss before you brush, so you remove any food, bacteria, and plaque and then effectively clear it away
If you are full or partial dentures, make sure to clean them daily and remove them at night while you sleep.
To clean your dentures, start by brushing them with a brush specifically for denture cleaning, with warm water, to reach all the nooks and crannies. Don’t use toothpaste to brush, especially whitening toothpaste. It’s abrasive and will damage your dentures. Then before you go to bed, place the dentures in a cleansing solution to soak overnight. This is important to prevent the dentures from drying out. Any over-the-counter denture solution that carries the American Dental Association’s seal of acceptance is safe to use.
If you have dentures, it’s still important to visit your dentist even if you don’t think you have any problems. Your dentist needs to evaluate the tissue supporting your dentures, check their fit, and do a professional cleaning to remove debris that you can’t remove at home.
If you’re caring for a loved one who’s elderly, follow all of these tips for daily at-home oral care, and make sure that they’re getting their regular dental visits. It can be helpful to find a dentist who specializes in caring for the elderly.
Staying on top of your oral health isn’t only good for your mouth, but the benefits extend to your overall health. It’s all connected. Establishing good oral health habits at a young age will help build habits that can last a lifetime, and both your mouth and body will be better off for it.