As we age, our oral health needs begin to change and good oral health can become more of a challenge. Teeth may become more sensitive or gum tissue and tooth structure can begin to weaken. It’s important for older adults to be mindful of their dental care routine. Here are 3 oral health tips that benefit older adults.
Research shows about 66% of dental cavities occur on molars. When left untreated, plaque, gingivitis, and tartar buildup can cause damage to healthy teeth and gums. This can also affect denture plates and dental implants.
The CDC also reports nearly all adults aged 65 and older have had at least one cavity. A higher percentage of older adults are also affected by tooth decay and gum disease. Taking action steps can help prevent tooth decay and save smiles.
1. Improve Daily Oral Hygiene
Oral health for older adults is important. Daily brushing and flossing helps keep the mouth healthy. Good healthy cleaning dental habits benefit oral health.
Cleaning Natural Teeth and Dental Implants
Dental implants require the same attention as natural teeth. Brushing twice a day is one of the simplest and most effective ways to keep a mouth healthy. Regular brushing helps remove plaque and food particles that cause cavities and gum disease.
Molars used for chewing and grinding food are often the most under-brushed areas of teeth. Brushing with fluoride toothpaste helps strengthen tooth enamel and prevent cavities in natural teeth. Try brushing for two minutes each time using a soft-bristled brush.
Brush dental implants twice a day under and around the implant crown. Use a narrow-headed soft-bristle toothbrush with low-abrasive toothpaste. Ask your dentist for toothpaste recommendations for dental implants.
Baking soda, whitening, and tartar-control toothpaste formulas are abrasive. These formulas can scratch dental implants, leading to long-term damage. This damage weakens the implant, making it more prone to staining.
For adults with arthritis, an electric toothbrush may make brushing easier. Brush all surfaces of teeth—front, back, top, bottom, chewing surfaces—and brush well in hard-to-reach areas. Floss between teeth and dental implants to remove any sticky residue left by food.
Flossing helps to remove plaque bacteria between teeth and along the gum line. Waxed dental floss is a great option for natural teeth. Ask your dentist for dental implant-approved floss recommendations. Some brands can shed particles between implants and natural teeth, causing gum irritation.
Traditional dental floss can sometimes become a hassle for older adults with vision loss, unsteady manual dexterity, or joint pain. These issues can limit the effectiveness of dental flossing. The good news is flossing alternatives are available to help older adults floss effectively.
Instead of holding flossing thread directly with fingers, a floss holder simplifies the process. A Y-shaped floss holder holds dental floss securely. It helps to clean between teeth, dental implants, and tight spaces around a fixed bridge. It is also easy to use for caregivers who regularly help an older adult with oral health care.
Cleaning Full or Partial Dentures
Efficient care can ensure full or partial denture sets last their entire lifespan and retain their glossy appearance. Daily cleaning of upper and lower dentures is important. This will help to prevent damage and ensure optimal oral hygiene and a proper fit.
The Oral Health Foundation recommends removing dentures and gently cleaning natural teeth with a soft-bristled toothbrush. This will remove plaque and stimulate blood circulation in mouth tissue to prevent gum disease.
Rinse and Soak
Water flossers work great as a follow-up tool for rinsing. High-pressure water blasts away food particles and plaque stuck on and between teeth and dental implants. Water flossers also massage gums while cleaning to promote gum health.
Antiseptic mouthwashes fight gum disease, reduce plaque buildup, and rinse away food stuck between natural teeth and dental implants where brushing can’t reach. For denture wearers using a fixative, gargle with warm water instead of an antiseptic mouthwash prior to removing dentures. This will help loosen the seal, clean the grooves that fit against the gums, and remove any residual adhesive.
Rinse dentures under running warm water to loosen any stuck-on food debris. To prevent drying or cracking, while retaining a comfortable fit, store dentures in either cool water or a mild denture-soaking solution. Always clean dentures and the denture storage case between uses to prevent plaque bacteria buildup.
2. Identify Oral Health Risk Factors
Several risk factors can impact the oral health of older adults. These include:
- Sugary Food and Drinks: Sugar-laden food can damage enamel and cause cavities over time. It’s best to avoid sugary snacks like hard or chewy candies whenever possible. Chewy sweets can cause dental implants to wear down faster. Biting hard candies can also crack or fracture dental implants and natural teeth.
- Dry Mouth: Hydrating helps neutralize acids and plaque bacteria. Increase saliva production and prevent dry mouth (xerostomia) and bad breath by drinking water more often. Try your best to limit or eliminate smoking, alcohol, and coffee consumption. They trigger dry mouth and dehydration.
- Gum Inflammation: The risk of gum disease increases as we age. Periodontitis is a main risk factor for tooth loss. The Journal of the American Geriatrics Society reports as many as 64 percent of older adults in the United States have moderate or severe forms of periodontal disease, compared with less than 38 percent for younger people.
3. Visit the Dentist Regularly
Older adults benefit from getting a professional teeth cleaning and dental exam twice a year. Regular oral health check-ups are important for the early detection of dental issues. When scheduling an appointment be sure to share your dental and health history as well as a current list of medications you’re taking.
Also, discuss with your dentist any current oral health risk factors you are experiencing including tooth pain or gum tissue that bleeds easily. The dentist or dental hygienist can suggest an oral treatment plan and sedation dentistry options to make your dental visit comfortable. Also ask about any recommended toothpaste or mouthwash options based on your unique dental needs to prevent tooth decay and early stages of gum disease.
Take action to correct dental issues as you age with routine comprehensive dental and periodontal examinations. Get fitted for dentures or schedule an evaluation for dental implant placement to restore smiles and replace missing teeth. Contact us today by calling (1) 855-4-NO-FEARS or request an appointment online. We are conveniently located throughout the Pittsburgh area in Cranberry, Greentree, Greensburg, and Jennerstown.