While maintaining oral hygiene and taking care of your teeth is important irrespective of age, it is especially critical to ensure proper oral health in seniors since small dental issues can make way for serious problems.
According to the American Academy of Periodontology, people suffering from periodontal disease are twice as exposed to the risk of heart disease.
Let’s understand how dental health is affected with age and what you can do to prevent serious dental issues.
Common dental issues in seniors and the risks they can lead to:
1. Dry Mouth
Though seniors do not necessarily face the problem of dry mouth, they often experience it because of a chronic condition such as diabetes or regular medications. If you’ve been experiencing it lately, consult your dentist for recommendations and appropriate treatment to prevent the problem.
Wear and tear of tooth enamel are inevitable as we age because of years of chewing and grinding. And if the protective layer of teeth itself wears down, the risk of cavities increases.
3. Gum Disease
Gum disease or periodontal disease is common in adults, especially because it is a painless condition until the advanced stage. It occurs when bacteria in plaque stay accumulated on top of the teeth for a long time and start irritating the gums, making them swollen. If the condition is not diagnosed and treated at the initial stage, it leads to receding and bleeding gums as well as tooth loss. Therefore, proper dental care for seniors is important to reduce the risk of gum disease.
4. Root Decay
Seniors who begin showing the symptoms of gum disease due to poor oral health can also suffer from root decay in the later stages of gum disease. This is because receding gums expose the root of the teeth, which may wear down eventually and lead to tooth loss.
Tooth sensitivity is one of the most common problems that the elderly face. As we age, tooth enamel wears down, exposing the dentin, which is sensitive to stimuli. This is why we experience sensitivity when consuming something too hot or too cold.
Moreover, gums recede naturally with age, which exposes the part of the tooth not protected by enamel, i.e., the areas that are too sensitive.
Cavity and tooth decay are two other reasons for sensitivity, so dental health for seniors shouldn’t be ignored.
Dental Care For Seniors – Three Most Important Tips to Follow
1. Eradicate problems that may lead to serious dental issues
Dental problems that may not be bothersome at the moment may lead to serious dental issues later in life. For example, an incorrect bite may not irritate you now, but it can be the reason for bacterial accumulation and gingivitis in the future. Therefore, it is best to visit your dentist/orthodontist and undergo dental or orthodontic treatment if needed.
2. Follow a proper oral care routine
Cleaning teeth properly is the key to good oral health for seniors, adults, and kids. Here’s an elderly dental care routine you must follow:
- Clean your teeth twice a day using a brush with soft bristles.
- Floss every day to get rid of minute food particles trapped between teeth.
- Rinse your mouth after every meal using a mouthwash containing fluoride.
- If you wear dentures, clean them daily.
- Quit smoking to reduce the risk of gum disease.
- Visit your dentist regularly for oral check-ups.
3. Maintain a proper diet
With age, teeth lose their strength. So, consume calcium-rich foods to maintain their strength, such as low-fat dairy such as cheese, yoghurt and milk, tofu, soy drinks, dark green leafy vegetables, almonds, etc. Also, add healthy items such as lean meat, fish, eggs, nuts, beans, etc., to your diet.
Here’s what to avoid:
- Processed foods and beverages high in sugar
- Sticky and sweet foods that may trap between teeth
- Alcohol and any other food and beverage that causes dry mouth
- Citrus fruits and any other items that erode tooth enamel
- Potato chips
You may, of course, eat dry fruits such as raisins, figs, apricots, prunes, etc., that might get stuck between your teeth. But please ensure to brush and floss before bed and get rid of the particles.
Pro tip: Drink as much water as possible.
Oral health is important at all ages, and that applies to the elderly as well. With old age, you may be affected by various health problems and may fail to notice minor oral issues. And not attending to problems at the nascent stage may cost you more time and care. So, please pay more attention to your teeth and visit your orthodontist regularly to ensure that you identify a problem as soon as it occurs.