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June 24, 2022

How Does Aging Affect Oral Health?

How Does Aging Affect Oral Health
Oral health is a lifetime process, and as with many other things, it becomes more difficult as people get older. Older adults are at a higher risk of developing several oral health problems. With a thorough understanding of how aging and oral health are related, however, you can motivate yourself and your loved ones to create new, healthier routines. 

Some common oral health issues in seniors

  • Tooth decay. Plaque builds up over time. Unless the teeth are cleaned regularly by a dentist, there will be pockets of plaque that cause cavities and decay no matter how carefully you brush. Also, certain medications make the mouth dry, which contributes to tooth decay.
  • Sensitive teeth. The enamel corrodes and wears away over the years, leaving the teeth more sensitive to cold, heat, and harder textures.
  • Gum disease. Accumulated plaque can cause the gums to become red and swollen, and may lead to receding gum line.
  • Tooth loss. When tooth and gum diseases become severe enough, teeth can fall out or need to be removed. This can create gaps in the smile, causing self-consciousness and reduced confidence, aside from the physical symptoms.
  • Oral cancer. The risk of developing oral cancers goes up substantially after age 40, and the median age of diagnosis is 62. Like all cancers, earlier detection means higher odds of full recovery. Regular visits to the dentist will help you detect any early signs of cancer.

Why is oral health important for older adults?

As we age, our bodies' immune systems tend to get weaker, making it more difficult for us to fight off the bacteria and viruses that cause infection and disease. Our mouths are full of bacteria and are the most common point of entry for disease-carrying microbes into our systems.

Proper dental hygiene has been linked not only to the health of the teeth and gums but also to better health overall. In fact, several studies of aging and oral health have indicated that people who have had gum disease are more likely to develop heart disease, diabetes, and stroke. In turn, people with these chronic health conditions are less likely to get dental care, creating a spiraling effect.

Oral hygiene tips for seniors

In studies of aging and oral health, it is found time and time again that people who prioritize their dental hygiene even as they get old enjoy a higher level of overall health and wellness. It is never too early to begin an oral hygiene routine that will carry you into your old age with more robust health.

See the dentist regularly

Visiting the dentist for a thorough cleaning and checkup every 6 months will help to prevent plaque and tartar build-up. The dentist will also be able to detect any early signs of disease and recommend treatment.

Brush and floss daily

Brush twice per day with fluoride toothpaste and floss once a day between the teeth. Use mouthwash once or twice a day to help keep teeth clean and flush out bacteria. This should go without saying, but a surprising percentage of adults still do not follow this well-worn advice. Flossing with traditional string floss can be challenging for older adults with limited mobility. If this is the case, consider using interdental brushes or water flossers.

Take care of dentures

The proper way to care for dentures would be to store them in liquid overnight and clean every surface of them daily to prevent staining and bacteria buildup. If the dentures start giving pain and discomfort, let your dentist know immediately.

Stop using tobacco

There are countless reasons to stop smoking. Smoking weakens the tooth enamel, contributes to tooth and gum disease, and increases the risk of many cancers, including oral cancer. Talk to your doctor today about the best way for you to quit.

Stay hydrated

Drinking enough liquids helps to keep the mouth fresh and clean. It protects the gums from becoming dry and guards against tooth decay.

Eat less sugar

Refined sugar and carbohydrates eat away at the enamel of your teeth. Avoid them whenever possible for better oral health.

Provide elderly loved ones with professional assistance

Most seniors wish to maintain their independence and remain at home for as long as possible. Sometimes, though, they need help with performing necessary daily functions such as oral care, shaving, bathing, and so on. When daily tasks become challenging, it is always best to seek assistance from professional CAREGivers to provide personal care services for aging loved ones.

Home Instead is your trusted partner for senior helpers in Lafayette, LA, and nearby areas. Our highly trained CAREGivers will help beloved older relatives preserve their dignity while receiving the care they need. Contact us today to learn how we can help!