Article at a Glance
- Older adults can develop different oral conditions like dry mouth and root decay.
- Aging can affect the body in many ways, but chronic diseases and medications can affect oral health in older adults.
- Oral care is a bit different for seniors, but minor adjustments to your oral care routine can preserve your natural teeth longer.
- Dentures are an excellent option for replacing missing teeth.
As we age, our bodies change and need to be cared for in a different way than when we were young. Part of this can be exercising differently, changing our diets, and even approaching oral care in a new way. Today, people are able to retain their natural teeth longer than ever before, but it’s important to keep up with good oral care and make necessary adjustments as we age.
How Oral Care Needs Change as We Age
Despite the many stories, myths, and legends, there is no magic fountain of youth or special formula to prevent aging. Human bodies change over time and conditions, like arthritis, can develop in older adults. Like arthritis, human teeth and gums can develop conditions associated with aging, much of it due to normal wear and tear from years of use. Think about all of the food you’ve chewed and all of the acidic, sugary drinks that have passed through your mouth over the years. Plus, you’re no longer growing, your teeth and jaw are fully formed. But there are other reasons to consider special care for your teeth as you age, like medications and diseases.
Common Oral Care Concerns for Seniors
Some diseases can affect anybody at any age, but other conditions are more often associated with aging or result from long-term existence of chronic conditions, like diabetes. Seniors have had a lifetime of head colds and injuries, eating too much of the wrong thing or too little of the right thing. Maybe you’ve beaten cancer or struggled to manage diabetes or heart disease. Perhaps you were injured in a sporting event in your youth and now you’ve got a nagging tooth that has darkened or has come loose. There is something special about your life experience, all that you’ve seen in the world, and now, there are some special things you need to consider with your health, including your teeth.
- Periodontitis is a gum infection that can lead to tooth loss and usually only affects adults because it happens over time, usually a slow deterioration caused by the buildup of plaque.
- Dry mouth can result from a history of cancer, autoimmune diseases, or the side effects of medications.
- Wear and tear, also known as attrition, occurs over your lifetime, but can be worsened by ingesting certain foods and drinks, poor oral care, and smoking.
- Sense of taste can be affected by certain diseases and medications.
- Root decay is caused by the gums receding to the point that the unprotected root is exposed.
- Uneven bites can occur when a tooth is lost and not replaced allowing the other teeth to move and shift out of place.
- Thrush can be caused by diseases or medications that trigger excess growth of the fungus Candida albicans.
Though these conditions may seem scary, they can usually be treated. It may mean making some alterations to your medications or your daily routine. There are many steps you can take to keep your smile healthy.
Oral Care Tips for Older Adults
Dental care for seniors is a little different from oral care for adolescents and young adults, but it still begins with proper oral care routines. Take some time to consider your daily oral care routine and check it against our list for places you could make some improvements!
- Don’t forget to brush gently for a full two minutes to cover all surfaces of the teeth, gums, and even your tongue!
- Floss daily to reach the tight spaces between your teeth that your toothbrush can’t quite cover.
- Switch to a fluoride toothpaste or add a fluoride rinse to your daily routine.
- Quit tobacco. Even smokeless tobacco can affect the health of your mouth.
- Drink more water. It can help offset the effects of some medications and fight dry mouth.
- Try an antibacterial mouthwash to help limit plaque build-up.
- Manage chronic conditions, like diabetes and heart disease, which can lead to inflammation in your mouth if uncontrolled.
- Eat a lot of fruits and vegetables to ensure you are getting the proper nutrients your body needs, including your teeth.
- Supplements for teeth could be beneficial to older adults. Calcium helps form and maintain healthy teeth, phosphorus helps repair tissues and keep teeth strong, Vitamin D helps your body absorb calcium, Vitamin C improves circulation and promotes healing, and Vitamin A helps maintain tissues and mucous membranes.
- See your dentist every six months and make sure to address any concerns you have as soon as they arise. Getting in front of potential issues, like dry mouth, can help preserve your oral health.
What About Dentures?
For people missing one or more teeth, there are options. Dental implants can replace missing teeth, but they can be expensive and take time. A more affordable choice for improving your smile would be dentures. Depending on how many teeth you’re missing, and the overall health of your mouth, you have options for full, partial, and even implant-supported dentures.
If you have dentures, partial or full, your oral care routine will also be a bit different. It’s equally important to care for your mouth with dentures to avoid conditions that can be caused by ill-fitting or poorly maintained dentures. Proper care for your dentures will make them last longer and keep your entire mouth healthy.
Your smile is the first thing people notice about you, so it’s important you feel confident in yours. If you’re due for a check-up and professional cleaning or if you’d like to speak to our team about options for affordable dentures, contact the Jefferson Dental Care office nearest you to make an appointment.
Our Jefferson Dental Content Committee supports our team by educational and informational articles related to what we do, oral care tips, and current events in our communities.