Seniors are at increased risk for a multitude of dental problems, including everything from root disease and gum decay to dry mouth and diminished sense of taste. However, old age doesn’t have to mean poor oral health. Caregivers can encourage their aging loved ones to keep smiles in great shape by following these four tips.
1. Routinely Brush and Floss
The simplest way to maintain natural teeth is by taking the best possible care of them. Twice-daily brushing with a fluoride-containing toothpaste and once-daily flossing removes plaque and heads off buildups -- a critical part of preventing tooth decay and gum disease. Rinsing with antibacterial mouthwash further reduces bacteria in the mouth.
If arthritis or other mobility restrictions are inhibiting your loved one’s ability to brush or floss, switch to an electric toothbrush for easier access. Long handled flossing tools can also be helpful for those who have limited dexterity or fine motor control.
2. Visit the Dentist
Regular trips to the dentist can play a valued role in safeguarding dental health among seniors. In addition to examining your aging loved one's teeth, the dentist will also look for recent changes in the mouth while conducting a dental checkup. This may include loose or sensitive teeth; difficulty with chewing, swallowing or tasting; bumps, lumps, and swelling; or painful bleeding or sores. Additionally, the dentist will also check the face, neck, jaw, lymph nodes, salivary glands, tongue and interior surface of the mouth.
Make sure to check in with your aging loved one's dentist about side effects from any medications. For example, antidepressants and pain relievers can lead to complications, such as dry mouth.
3. Make the Most Out of Dentures
If your loved one is struggling with his dentures, a professional denture reline can vastly improve his quality of life. While over-the-counter denture repair kits can be useful in a pinch, they’re not an adequate substitute for professional denture care.
Additionally, make sure your aging loved one knows about other missing teeth solutions, such as dental implants. While these may cost more, many people appreciate their more natural look and feel.
4. Know the No-Nos
Smokers are seven times more likely to develop periodontal disease than their nonsmoking counterparts. If your aging loved one smokes, remind him about the risks.. Excess drinking is linked with certain types of oral cancers, so limit alcohol as an additional preventative measure.
While maintaining optimal oral health is a challenge for many seniors, it’s not insurmountable. These four tips can help your aging loved one develop and practice healthy habits designed not only to improve dental wellness, but also overall quality of life.
The benefits of maintaining good dental health aren’t limited to teeth. Many different diseases have symptoms related to the mouth.
Routine care -- from brushing and flossing to regular dental visits -- is a huge part of lifelong dental health.
If your loved one is struggling with dentures, look into other options, such as dental implants.
About Marissa Salvesen
My journey into the world of senior living began when I started working for United Methodist Homes in 2010. Starting as an Activities Director at one of our-winning assisted and independent living communities and then transitioning to Marketing and Promotions Manager for UMH, I now work as the Manager of Mission Development, fostering the Mission and Values of our organization. I love sharing stories about the many ways we build meaningful relationships and enrich the lives of those we serve, and am proud to be part of building UMH’s 140-year legacy of caring. Wondering what makes our communities such special places to live and work? Connect with me and find out!
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Our Blog is a 2016 Platinum Generations Award Winner! The Generations Award is an annual international competition for excellence in senior marketing recognizing professionals who have communicated to the 50+ Mature Markets.