As we age, or become a caregiver to those who raised us, we see greater changes in teeth and gums. These changes require more care, rather than less. As well, older adults have greater challenges with:
- Missing teeth
- Heavily restored teeth
- Higher rates of gum/periodontal disease
- Very high rates of tooth decay
- Higher rates of dry mouth
- Physical limitations such as arthritis or loss of dexterity
- Memory lapses, dementia
- Financial limitations
These are very real challenges to practicing good oral hygiene as we get older. However, don’t let these reasons be an excuse for letting your oral health slip. There is a direct link between oral health and heart disease. People with periodontal disease have increased chances of developing cardiovascular disease. Periodontal disease has also been linked with risk factors for chronic degenerative diseases like ulcerative colitis and lupus.
The good news is that more seniors than ever are keeping at least some of their teeth. 75% of Canadians visit the dentist annually. Over the past 40 years, the percentage of adults in Canada with no natural teeth has dropped from 23.6% to 6.4%.
Here are some tips:
Make brushing easy – You don’t have to stand if that is uncomfortable or tiring. You can also buy large handled or electric toothbrushes to lessen the work load.
Remember to floss – Flossing is important regardless of age. If holding dental floss is difficult, try an interdental brush or floss threader.
Increase oral hydration – Some medications have a side effect of dry mouth. If you can’t switch medications, make sure you drink plenty of water, chew sugarless gum, and avoid alcohol.
Use an antibacterial mouthwash – Along with regular brushing and flossing, this can help reduce plaque buildup in your mouth.
Do a breath check – One of the many symptoms of gum disease or an infected tooth is bad breath. If your breath smells rancid, make an appointment for a dental exam.
If you do have dentures, don’t forget to brush them — Bacteria thrives in dark, wet places. Inspect them for cracks, chips or other signs of damage that might rub or create sore spots in your mouth.
Schedule regular dental cleaning and exams – On average, every 6 months.
Listen to your dentist – Your dentist is there to help you take care of your mouth! They strive to prevent future problems, as well as addressing existing problems in a way that keeps them from getting worse.
See you soon!
Braeside Dental Centre