How To Maintain Oral Health In The Elderly

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As we age, our bodies undergo various changes, and our oral health is no exception. Many older adults experience issues such as loss of taste, difficulty chewing or swallowing, dry mouth, and an increased risk of cavities.  These changes can have a significant impact on overall health and quality of life. In fact, research has shown that poor oral health in older adults can increase the risk of heart disease, stroke, and diabetes. 

Therefore, it is crucial for seniors to prioritize their oral health. In this article, we will discuss essential tips for maintaining oral health in the elderly.

Address The Challenges:

Older adults often face challenges related to oral health that require special attention. These challenges may include difficulty chewing and moving food around in the mouth, which can lead to incomplete chewing and digestion issues. 

Additionally, a common issue among seniors is dry mouth, which is caused by reduced saliva production and can increase the risk of tooth decay. To tackle these challenges effectively, consider the following measures:

  • Choose softer and easier-to-chew foods.
  • Stay hydrated and sip water frequently to combat dry mouth.
  • Use saliva substitutes or sugar-free chewing gum to stimulate saliva production.

Prevent Cavities:

Contrary to popular belief, cavities are not just a concern for children and young adults. Older adults enter a second round of cavity-prone years as they age. Dental plaque, a buildup of bacteria, poses a threat to both natural and artificial teeth, including dentures and implants. The acids produced by plaque gradually erode the hard outer surface of the teeth, leading to cavities. To prevent cavities effectively:

  • Practice good oral hygiene by brushing your teeth at least twice a day with fluoride toothpaste.
  • Clean between your teeth daily using floss or interdental cleaners.
  • Visit your dentist regularly for checkups and professional cleanings.
  • Follow your dentist’s recommendations for additional preventive measures, such as fluoride treatments or dental sealants.
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Combat Dry Mouth:

Dry mouth is a common condition among older adults, often resulting from medications taken for various health conditions. It can cause difficulties with chewing, swallowing, and speaking, while also increasing the risk of tooth decay. To alleviate dry mouth and minimize its impact on oral health:

  • Stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water throughout the day.
  • Avoid or limit the consumption of alcohol, caffeine, and tobacco, as they can further contribute to dry mouth.
  • Use over-the-counter saliva substitutes or ask your dentist for recommendations.
  • Consider using a humidifier in your bedroom to add moisture to the air while you sleep.

Care For Dentures:

Individuals who wear dentures must take special care to maintain good oral health. Bacteria that cause tooth decay can also adhere to dentures, so they must be cleaned on a regular basis. Follow these denture care guidelines:

  • Denture cleaners should be used on a daily basis to clean your dentures. Avoid using toothpaste or household cleaners because they can be too abrasive and cause denture damage.
  • Every 24 hours, remove your dentures for at least four hours to allow your mouth’s lining to breathe and stay healthy.
  • Unless your dentist advises otherwise, remove your dentures, whether full or partial, before going to bed.

Understand The Connection With Heart Health:

New research suggests a connection between oral health and heart health, making good oral hygiene for older adults even more crucial. Studies have demonstrated that periodontal (gum) disease increases the risk of heart disease and exacerbates preexisting heart conditions. The connection between these conditions is inflammation caused by oral bacteria. 

  • To protect both your oral and cardiovascular health, maintain good oral hygiene.
  • Regularly visit your dentist for professional cleanings and early detection of any oral health problems.
  • Maintain a healthy lifestyle through regular exercise, a well-balanced diet, and abstaining from tobacco use.
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Stop Smoking And Limit Alcohol Consumption:

Any form of tobacco use can have a negative effect on oral health. They increase the likelihood of developing periodontal disease, cavities, tooth loss, and oral cancer. Additionally, excessive alcohol consumption can increase the risk of oral cancer. To enhance your oral and overall health, perform the following:

  • Quit smoking and seek help from tobacco cessation programmes, over-the-counter medications, or prescription medications.
  • Limit your alcohol consumption because excessive consumption can be harmful to your oral health.

Visit Your Dentist Regularly:

Even if you are not experiencing any pain or discomfort, routine dental exams and checkups are essential. As we age, our teeth become less sensitive, so by the time we feel pain from a cavity or gum disease, the damage may be extensive. Regular dental checkups enable the early detection and treatment of potential problems, which can save your teeth and prevent future complications. During these appointments, your dentist will also look for signs of oral cancer, which can be detected early with the proper screenings.

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