Hygiene Tips for Seniors with Dental Complications
Just like every other health-related issue, maintaining good dental hygiene becomes more challenging with age. As dental problems become more common and more severe, while one’s general mobility tends to decrease, keeping up with regular dental visits and cleaning gets more difficult.
At Briglia Dental, we care for patients of all ages. In order to help seniors maintain their natural teeth and avoid serious oral health problems, we have compiled some general hygiene tips.
Daily Hygiene for Seniors
The same cleaning methods that are recommended for adults to maintain a healthy smile become even more essential in older age.
- Brush your teeth twice every day.
- Use toothpaste with fluoride.
- Floss daily.
- Rinse your mouth with a mild antibacterial mouthwash daily.
- If you have full or partial dentures, remove them and rinse after each meal. Then, brush and clean them each night as your dentist recommends.
Read on for more Tips on Taking Care of Dentures.
Facilitating Dental Hygiene
Some seniors have more difficulty taking good care of their teeth because of physical limitations, arthritis or other types of pain. Ask your dentist for recommendations that could make regular dental hygiene easier for you. It may be as simple as switching to an electric toothbrush or utilizing a water flosser to clean more thoroughly those hard-to-reach areas. Flossing handles and denture cleaning solutions can also be quick fixes for making daily dental hygiene easier.
Regular Dental Visits for Seniors
Routine visits to your dentist and hygiene appointments are fundamental to effective dental care at any age. For seniors, these visits also play an important role in overall health screening and care. Regular checkups will include a review of your medical history and a thorough dental exam. Your dentist will likely ask questions such as:
- Have you had any tooth pain or sensitivity recently?
- Have you noticed any changes to your teeth, tongue or oral tissues?
- Are you having any problems chewing, swallowing or tasting?
- Have you had any bleeding or sores around your gums?
- Are there any areas in your mouth affected by swelling?
- If you have dentures, are they fitting well?
- If you have dentures, have they been causing any irritation or discomfort?
Think about these questions before your next visit and write down some notes if you find that helpful. This is all important information to share with your dentist and hygienist.
At your regular appointments, your dentist will look for signs of issues that need to be addressed in order to treat them and prevent them from becoming more serious. He or she will check for:
- Broken fillings,
- Worn out crowns,
- Tooth decay,
- Changes in the oral tissues which might signify the early stages of gum disease or oral cancer.
Dentists are trained to look for early signs of problems that show up not just the mouth, but which can affect the face and neck as well. During an oral exam, he or she will look for skin discoloration, signs of cancer, infection, ulcers, jaw function and alignment problems and feel for lymph nodes and swelling.
Age-Related Oral Health Issues
Unfortunately, some oral health conditions become more common and more severe as the age of the patient increases. This is why regular dental visits become even more important. Some of the conditions which your dentist will be checking for include:
The risk of oral cancer increases with age. According to the Cancer Treatment Centers of America, about two-thirds of patients who are diagnosed with oral cancer are over the age of 55. Remember that lifestyle choices, such as alcohol and tobacco use, are also big factors in the instance of this type of cancer.
Periodontal (Gum) Disease
According to Seniors Oral Health, at least 25% of adults between the ages of 65 and 74 have severe gum disease. Gum disease damages the bone and tissue surrounding the teeth, leading to tooth loss. The main cause of gum disease is plaque buildup which hardens to form tartar and lead to gingivitis. Poor dental hygiene, diet and fit of bridges and dentures can all worsen its effects. The use of tobacco and some conditions, such as diabetes, can also increase an older patient’s risk for gum disease.
According to The National Center for Biotechnology Information, about 88% of people over the age of 65 have receding gums and it is also more common among patients with poor oral hygiene habits. This leads to more serious problems when the roots are exposed, which leaves the teeth at higher risk for decay, infection and loss.
Exposed root surfaces are more common in older adults. Because roots don’t have a protective enamel layer, if they are exposed, they are at risk for damage and decay. Root decay causes toothaches, infection and even loss of the tooth.
Teeth often darken with age for multiple reasons. The dentin tissue in the teeth changes color over time and begins to show as enamel thins. Plus, years of consuming certain foods and beverages that cause staining, it begins to show.
Dry mouth is an irritating condition which causes discomfort, but it is also often a symptom of other underlying conditions. This can also be a side effect of certain medications. If your mouth is drier than usual, be sure to mention this to your dentist. He or she may be able to recommend an over-the-counter product that can help ease symptoms.
This issue is caused when a tooth is lost and not replaced. It causes issues with chewing and pain. Plus, the space left enables other teeth to shift out of place.
Dentures that fit poorly or aren’t properly cleaned and cared for can cause a buildup of bacteria. This often leads to infection and inflammation of the tissues inside the mouth.
Keeping up with daily brushing and flossing, plus scheduling regular visits to the dentist, are key to preventing these serious oral health problems.