As we age, our teeth, one of the hardest working parts of our body, are aging right along with us! You may not feel the pain of “aching teeth” the way you sometimes feel your “aching joints” but the truth is, some of us will experience age-related tooth decay and/or oral health problems. There’s no need to despair however, there is plenty you can do to help prevent tooth and gum disease and plenty we can do to help you if you are experiencing concerns with your teeth, mouth and gums.
Oral Health Care for Older Adults
- If you are in reasonably good health, the chances of experiencing oral discomfort are minimal. What this really means is eating a healthy diet with fruit, leafy green vegetables and protein is as good for your teeth as it is for the rest of your body.
- Avoiding or limiting the amount of processed foods, sugary treats and alcohol will also give your teeth a “fighting chance” at fending off decay, staining and related damage.
- Many older adults forget to do one thing that’s very important for our overall health – that is, drinking plenty of fluids and preferably much of that fluid is water! From basic advantages like keeping you hydrated, drinking water will also help you loosen and rinse food from between the teeth between meals and/or when you don’t have time to brush. As we age, dehydration is a particular worry for older adults so always having a glass or reusable bottle filled with water nearby and sipping frequently is a great idea.
- Older adults are more likely to also experience receding gums. This can also be problematic because it does make it easier for cavities to develop and can lead to serious dental concerns like gingivitis and periodontitis. It may even make your teeth and gums more susceptible to sensitivity and often a dental practitioner will find themselves recommending toothpaste and mouthwash designed for sensitive teeth and gums.
- Dry mouth is also seen with more frequency in seniors and often this is in part due to medications that many older adults may be taking. It’s another great reason to drink water, not just to avoid dry mouth but also the attendant concern it raises in terms of increased risk of cavities developing, and an increased risk of bacteria build-up. Dry mouth is also frequently a cause of bad breath.
Helping a Loved One Care For Teeth
- We’ve touched on this topic at least once before. Helping a senior adult who has mobility issues, is experiencing dementia or otherwise needs support caring for their teeth can be challenging. These folks are often the most at risk for tooth decay because while we focus on bathing or assisting with dressing and moving around, we sometimes forget about brushing teeth!
- There are a variety of tools and aids that can be used to help someone you love to still brush and care for their teeth. Whether you help guide the brush, use a finger-mounted brushing tool or even a wet cloth to rub the teeth – any effort to help rid the mouth of food debris, plaque build-up and other cavity-causing detritus, will be important.
What Else Can You Do?
- Brush! Daily, preferably at least twice a day.
- Floss! Even if this task becomes a little more challenging as we age, use a toothpick style flossing tool and make every effort to floss as often as you are comfortable.
- Schedule regular dental appointments! Occasionally, older adults will let dental visits lapse because of changes to their insurance after retirement or for variety of other reasons like moving away and leaving behind your family dentist. It’s important to schedule – at an absolute minimum – at least one dental visit per year!
- If you feel that any medications you are on, or perhaps an illness you are experiencing (diabetes and gastrointestinal disease are two big ones) might be contributing to your oral health concerns, speak with both your Dentist and your Doctor about your illness, your medications and whether or not other tools exist to help in your treatment that won’t manifest in tooth decay.
Your teeth have taken a lifetime of gnawing, gnashing, possibly grinding, brushing and flossing and sipping on drinks. Maybe you’ve even used your teeth to help rip open packaging. Crunching away on hard fruits and veggies may have dulled or flattened your edges and sipping away on citrus fruit drinks or eating citrus is hard on your enamel. All of these factors leave your teeth more vulnerable to disease. Your teeth have served you well for entire lifetime, please don’t start neglecting them now! The dental team at Brinkley Dental in Brampton will leave you as we always do with this friendly reminder: “Don’t forget to be a BFF with your mouth and brush that smile!”