As we age, many health concerns shift. Over time current issues can worsen, and new problems can begin to crop up. This is true for all parts of our bodies, including oral health. They say that knowing is half the battle. Spending a lifetime striving to take care of your health often culminates in our senior years when things begin to decline. Armed with the knowledge you need to know what healthy habits can help, what concerns to watch out for and how nutrition plays a role is so important. Proper senior dental care is essential to maintain a healthy mouth as well as to potentially avoid other related diseases.
Everyday Habits that contribute to Proper Senior Dental Care
Did you know that nearly 75% of people over 60 years old have only some of their natural teeth? And among those ages 65-74, nearly 23% have severe gum disease. As we age, we must become more vigilant about our daily oral care habits. For seniors, in particular, poor dental health can impact overall health and has been linked to increased risk for heart disease and diabetes. Incorporating healthy habits into your life can help reduce senior dental issues.
- Brush and Floss Daily – This habit is just as important in your later years as it was in your youth. If you wear dentures, be sure to clean them daily to reduce bacteria build up. Use fluoride toothpaste for natural teeth and denture specific cleansers for dentures.
- Drink Water – Not only is water consumption important for overall dental health but drinking water with fluoride helps prevent tooth decay. If bottled water is your preference, be sure to choose a fluoridated option.
- See your Dentist Regularly – With age, nerves are not as sensitive in our mouths and may not alert us early enough to dental problems. Bi-annual visits to the dentist can catch issues early such as cavities, gum disease or even oral cancer. Don’t wait until you have an issue or pain to see your dentist.
Dental Health Concerns Unique to Seniors
Seniors are uniquely susceptible to increased cavities for several reasons. Dry mouth, often caused by medications, is the top reason. With over 500 medications listing dry mouth as a side-effect, it is very common. 30% of older adults experience dry mouth which can lead to tooth decay and gum disease. Your body’s natural way of cleaning out bacteria and keeping your teeth and gums moist is through saliva production. Without this cleansing mechanism, bacteria can take hold and begin causing problems in your mouth. Dentists can help with solutions to dry mouth as well as check for gum disease, which often has no symptoms until it reaches an advanced stage.
Mouth cancer is another concern for seniors. The average age of the 35,000 diagnosed cases of mouth cancer each year is 62. The key to being on top of your mouth cancer risk is to see your dentist regularly. This is another silent oral condition that can go unnoticed and is best treated with early detection.
The dentists at Foundations for Health Dental Care in St. Joseph, MO strongly urge their patients to continue healthy oral habits into their senior years and to be consistent with bi-annual visits. Limiting alcohol and filling your plate with good nutrition is an important element to senior dental care as well. ChooseMyPlate.gov is a great resource for nutritional guidelines and facts. Many times health issues for seniors fall to their loved ones and caretakers. Making sure that their complete health, including oral health, is taken care of is essential for quality of life in their later years.