Diligent oral care is a part of essential maintenance for any adult, but it becomes even more important with age. Healthy teeth and gums contribute to an individual’s overall health level. Good dental hygiene is a positive step toward preventing oral health problems such as:
- Root decay
- Tooth discoloration
- Loss of taste
- Dry mouth
- Tooth loss
- Plaque build-up
Quite common in seniors, root decay occurs when the root of the tooth becomes exposed as the gums recede. When roots are exposed they are vulnerable to the acids in foods causing decay because the roots don’t have enamel for protection.
As tooth enamel wears over time, the dark yellow bone-like tissue underneath called dentin begins to show through. Also, lifelong consumption of strain-inducing food and beverage can contribute to discoloration without attentive oral hygiene.
Loss of Taste
A gradual loss in taste sensitivity tends to happen as we age, but oral diseases, dentures, and medications can also play a role.
Many older adults are taking an assortment of medications, some of which may have the effect of reducing the saliva flow. The saliva helps protect the teeth from bacteria and viruses, so dry can leave teeth susceptible to infection.
Dental care is crucial for keeping gums healthy and strong. Gum disease is the number one cause of tooth loss. Tooth loss can also result in an uneven jawbone.
Neglecting oral hygiene leads to an accumulation of plaque on your teeth. This plaque hardens as yellow or brown deposits known as tartar, which breaks down tooth enamel.
These are just some of the direct results of poor dental hygiene. Unhealthy teeth have also been associated with other health conditions like:
- Heart disease
- Kidney disease
Essential Dental Care Practices
Here are some ways to keep your teeth and gums healthy:
You should brush your teeth a minimum of twice a day to prevent bacteria build up in your mouth and plaque build-up on your teeth. Be sure to cover the surface area of every tooth by brushing in a downward motion away from your gums. Brushing up into your gums can cause the gums to recede as well as brushing bacteria into your gums. Always brush away from your gums. You should be replacing your toothbrush every few months. Use a soft toothbrush to prevent bleeding gums.
Flossing your teeth is just as important as brushing them. If you neglect to floss, pieces of food lodged in your teeth will sit there and cause decay. Because these food particles sit pressed against the teeth and gums, it is necessary to remove them with dental floss every day. If you are finding it difficult to add flossing to your daily routine, try doing it while watching TV so it doesn’t seem like such an onerous task. If regular dental floss hurts your fingers, try dental tape. It has a broader width, causing less pressure on your skin when wrapped around your fingers.
If problems with finger soreness or dexterity are making it difficult for you to brush or floss your teeth, caregivers can be a huge help. Home caregivers can help with the brushing and flossing process. They are trained to provide a gentle touch while ensuring that your loved one is comfortable throughout the procedure.
Many seniors have dentures that have replaced loose or missing teeth over the years. Just like with your original teeth, dentures need to be kept clean on a daily basis. Bacteria and plaque can build on dentures, just as they do on teeth. Dentures should be removed and cleaned with a brush every day. When you go to bed, you should soak your dentures in clean water, or a solution recommended by your dentist.
To ensure your dental hygiene is in good order, you should visit your dentist twice a year for a cleaning and an overall checkup. Be sure to mention any oral pain or irregularities you have experienced since the last checkup. It is also good practice to keep your dentist up to date on any changes in health, as well as any new or changed medications.