Oral care is important at any age, but as we get older dental hygiene becomes even more critical. Seventeen percent of seniors age 65 and over have periodontal disease (infections of the structures around the teeth, which include the gums, periodontal ligament and alveolar bone) according to the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research.
Check out these dental tips for seniors to prevent losing your natural teeth, gum disease, and root decay.
1. Practice proper dental care
Let’s start with the obvious. You need to brush and floss your teeth. The American Dental Association recommends brushing your teeth twice a day with a fluoride toothpaste.
According to Colgate, many dentists agree that proper brushing takes at least two minutes.
Dr. Anna Guarna, a dentist for over 20 years in Connecticut, goes one step further and typically has her patients brush for three minutes — one and a half minutes on both the upper teeth and the bottom teeth.
Two minutes might seem like an eternity while brushing; so is it possible to brush too long? According to Dr. Guarna, it’s not an issue of brushing for too long, it’s an issue of applying too much pressure when brushing.
Using too much pressure can cause abrasion of the enamel and of the gum tissue, which can lead to tooth sensitivity. Guarna recommends trying to use your non-dominant hand to brush—you may be amazed to realize just how much pressure you are applying.
2. Evaluate your toothbrush
When was the last time you replaced your toothbrush? Have you been using the same brand and style of toothbrush since the Nixon administration? Are you using the proper bristle stiffness? What’s better, electric toothbrushes or manual?
In addition to applying too much pressure when you brush, your bristles may be too stiff. Ask your dental health professional what type of toothbrush you should use during your years of senior living.
The American Dental Association recommends you replace your toothbrush every three to four months, or sooner if the bristles are irregular of frayed. “If you leave behind bacteria on the teeth after brushing, it can lead to serious problems such as gingivitis or periodontitis,” according to Colgate.
The American Dental Association recommends you floss your teeth daily. According to the Mayo Clinic, standard dental floss is the most effective tool for cleaning the tight spaces between your teeth.
Some people prefer to use an oral pulsating irrigator, or water pick, to remove food particles between their teeth. While it is not as effective as standard dental floss, it’s a good option if the alternative is not flossing at all. We recommend this cordless waterpik.
4. Avoid Tobacco
Smokers have twice the risk of gum disease as nonsmokers. In addition to the negative effects of tobacco use, smoking weakens your immune system and overall health making it harder to fight off a gum infection.
The more you smoke and the longer you smoke, the greater your risk for periodontal disease, and treatments may not work as well for people who smoke.
Tobacco use in any form—cigarettes, pipes, dip and electronic cigarettes—raise your risk for gum disease. The best advice? Don’t use tobacco. If you do, try your best to quit.
5. Stay Healthy
Health issues, especially diabetes, can cause dental issues. Eating a variety of nutrient-rich foods from all the food groups promotes healthy teeth and gums.
In addition to being a good dental tip for seniors, this is just solid life advice.
6. Watch out for dry mouth
As you know, older adults experience many changes to their body. One of those changes is a dry mouth. Talk to your doctor about any medications you’re taking that might contribute to dry mouth.
Otherwise, drink more water, lay off the booze, and chew sugarfree gum.
7. Visit the dentist
Despite these great dental tips for seniors, you should seek out regular oral healthcare.
You should aim to visit your dentist every six months, in addition to healthful eating, practicing good oral hygiene, flossing once a day, drinking fluoridated water, and seeking regular oral health care.
If you don’t already have dental insurance, we recommend getting a policy.
This article is not a substitute for professional medical / dental advice.