Oral Hygiene for Seniors
As we age, our body slowly starts slowing down in its functions and we develop certain medical conditions like diabetes, arthritis, and vision issues. Similarly, the years long usage of teeth can also develop issues on their own or it can sometimes be also a side effect of or aggravated by other complications. For example, Parkinson’s and Arthritis can affect the motor control of the joints which can render brushing a hard task. Thus, the maintenance of oral hygiene becomes extremely important for seniors as their teeth become more sensitive and susceptible to these issues.
What kind of issues would develop?
Tooth Decay and Gum Diseases: Cavities due to buildup of bacteria are more likely to develop in adults due to the variety of foods they eat and drinks they intake. Propelled by the rush of work lifestyle, they do not get enough time to clean their teeth and as a result, over time, teeth damage along with deterioration to gums occurs.
Tooth Loss: As the gums weaken and tooth roots thin with age, teeth lose their grip and have a higher probability of falling out. Lack of nutrition from wearing dentures can also attribute to tooth loss.
Cancer and Chronic Diseases: Older Adults with chronic diseases such as heart diseases, rheumatoid arthritis, diabetes, and COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease) are more likely to develop diseases of the gums. Certain medications can dry out the mouth inhibiting the production of saliva leading to the increase in the risk of developing cavities. Usage of drugs and other substances in the long term can affect the mouth and cause ulcers, in worst case, cancers of the mouth. Commonly, Oral Cancer.
In general, the wear and tear of the teeth from years of usage generally affects the enamel (the protective covering of the teeth) causing sensitive teeth and a variety of other problems which might require a medical diagnosis and treatment through surgery.
How to care for teeth when you are older?
Brush twice a day with a pea-sized amount of a fluoride toothpaste recommended by your dentist and floss regularly. Clean your tongue with a tongue cleaner to keep your breath afresh.
Use an antibacterial mouthwash after eating to prevent the buildup of plaque.
Avoid substances like tobacco that can stay for a long time in the tooth and cause their deterioration. Usage of tobacco has been linked to an increased risk of developing cancers of the mouth and other chronic illnesses and is one of the leading cause of diseases of the mouth.
Monitoring sugar intake: Sugars can chalk up to the damage of gums as they contain bacteria that can in the long term stay between teeth and cause a variety of issues. So, it is recommended to eat an optimal amount of sugar filled snacks and drinks. Rinse your mouth thoroughly to get rid if any remnants lodged between the gaps of the teeth and gums.
Load up on calcium: One of the lessons taught to us even as we are little children are the consumption of calcium for strong bones and teeth. As the teeth starts to wither with age, one of the things to do to keep ourselves immune to the damaging effects of nature is to get our regular dose of calcium.
Stay Hydrated: Dry mouth can decrease the production of saliva, which is the irreplaceable naturally produced liquid that first fights any harmful bacteria it detects in the mouth and keeps it protected. So, drink plenty of water and keep your lips and mouth hydrated to keep the optimal amount of saliva produced for a healthy mouth.
Finally, it is highly recommended to keep up your regular appointments with your dentist. With age, regular checkups help to detect any underlying condition and get ourselves treated before it manifests with severity. The frequency of visits can vary depending on the advice of your dental health provider. To get started, please schedule an appointment with Dr. Raji Pillai at Lane Cove Family Dentist. You can book your professional cleaning appointment online.