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Maintaining a Healthy Mouth
Just 60 years ago, it was often presumed that older people would lose their permanent teeth as part of the aging process. Today, we know that maintaining a healthy mouth is a valuable exercise and keeping permanent teeth is a realistic expectation for many of us. With some simple and healthy habits, we can enjoy a smile that lasts a lifetime.
As we get older, our dental needs may change, and cavities and decay are more prevalent. Did you know that unhealthy bacteria in the mouth can not only harm your teeth and gums, but may be associated with serious medical conditions? By brushing and flossing daily and visiting the dentist regularly, we can keep our mouths free of disease and maintain strong teeth. We can also stay aware of any changes in our oral health and watch for common concerns that arise as we age.
Gum Disease. Gum disease is a condition that can affect people of all ages, but it is especially a concern for those of us over 40. Many factors can increase the potential of gum disease, including poor diet, inadequate oral hygiene, diseases including diabetes or cancer, and environmental factors such as smoking or stress.
We can take some easy steps to decrease decay and gum disease as we age:
- Use a soft-bristle brush.
- Brush with a fluoride toothpaste.
- Use dental floss to remove the plaque that has started growing on your teeth.
- Stay aware of any medications that can affect gum condition.
- Get regular checkups with your dentist to spot early gum issues.
The first stages of gum disease are reversible, so it is essential to watch for gum changes and report them to your doctor or dentist. Preventing gum disease from developing in the first place is made easier by practicing proper oral hygiene and making it a daily habit.
Dry Mouth. Dry mouth is a common condition as we age. Many medications and medical disorders can cause dry mouth, so we often ignore this warning sign until after tooth damage occurs. Dry mouth is a side effect for over 500 medications. This includes prescriptions for allergies, blood pressure, cholesterol, pain, anxiety or depression, Parkinson’s, and Alzheimer’s. Experiencing reduced moisture in your mouth can cause cavities and dental decay. Your dentist can recommend options or treatments for restoring moisture in your mouth.
Some moisture-restoring options include:
- Use non-prescription moisturizers: This includes sprays and mouthwashes.
- Drink water: Carry a water bottle and drink consistently and before you feel thirsty.
- Chew sugar-free gum: This helps with natural saliva production.
- Run a humidifier: Keep your home moisturized, especially at night.
- Try a dental varnish or gel: Your dentist may apply these protectors to your teeth to prevent cavities.
Dental health is important at any age, but as we get older, our needs become more specialized. It’s important for us to remember we can stop or prevent conditions like gum disease and dry mouth by staying aware of these changes and keeping up with good dental habits. At Comfort Keepers®, we help our clients maintain positive habits in their health routines. From medication reminders and diet preparation to hygiene assistance, we are there for an extra helping hand. Our goal is to keep seniors healthy and happy in the comfort of their own homes. We can help you support a lifestyle and health plan that matches your needs.
“Adults Over 60.” Mouth Healthy. American Dental Association. Web. 2014.
“Oral Health for Seniors.” Colgate Oral Care Center. Web. 2010.
Prince, Mary. “Oral Care for Elderly and Disabled.” Oral Health America: Tooth Wisdom. Web. 2013.