A Healthy Smile Never Grows Old

Today’s seniors can expect to keep most, if not all, of their natural teeth as they age thanks to healthier lifestyles and more accessible oral health care. But keeping those teeth healthy can be a challenge. Many medications taken by older adults can cause dry mouth, a condition that can contribute to cavities and other oral health problems. Seniors also develop more cavities on the roots of their teeth than younger adults, due to exposed roots from gum recession. And, perhaps most worrisome, bacteria from the mouth can travel through the body, resulting in serious medical conditions affecting overall health.

Managing Dry Mouth

If you notice that your mouth often feels dry, your tongue sticks to the roof of your mouth, and it is difficult to chew, swallow, and talk, you may have dry mouth (xerostomia). Talk to your dental hygienist about these symptoms and consider adjusting your daily routine in the following ways:

  • Sip water throughout the day.
  • Chew sugar-free gum or suck on sugar-free candies.
  • Avoid caffeine, alcohol, and salty foods that are known to dry your mouth.
  • Avoid spicy foods to keep your symptoms from getting worse.
  • Use lip lubricants or balm to prevent dry lips and sores.
  • Reduce or quit smoking.
  • Use a daily mouth rinse designed for dry mouth.

Maintaining Good Oral Health

Research shows that, in addition to causing pain, discomfort, and bad breath, oral diseases are associated with more serious health conditions such as diabetes, stroke, and heart and lung diseases. Fortunately, daily mouth care can remove food debris and bacteria that grow on gums, teeth, and dentures, improving oral and overall health.

Dental hygienists recommend that all older adults brush their teeth twice a day with fluoride toothpaste and clean between their teeth once a day with dental floss, floss aids or interdental brushes. Don’t forget to reach the back and the inside surfaces of the teeth, and along the gumline. If you have trouble holding the toothbrush, attach a sponge or bicycle grip to your toothbrush handle.

It’s also important to clean your tongue using a toothbrush or a tongue scraper and to rinse your mouth daily with an antibacterial fluoride mouth rinse. Even if you have bleeding gums, keep brushing, cleaning between your teeth, and rinsing daily.

Did You Know? Dentures Require as Much Care as Your Natural Teeth

If you wear dentures (complete or partial), remove them every night to clean them and allow your gums to breathe while sleeping.

  1. Remove and rinse your dentures under running water to detach loose food debris.
  2. Handle your dentures carefully.
  3. Brush your dentures with a soft-bristled denture brush and a nonabrasive denture cleanser.
  4. Soak your dentures overnight in water or a mild denture-soaking solution.
  5. Rinse your dentures thoroughly before putting them back in your mouth the next day.

In addition to good daily at-home mouth and denture care, all older adults should schedule regular appointments for professional oral care. Dental hygienists can help you maintain your oral health and can professionally remove hardened deposits from dentures. Many dental hygienists operate mobile practices so they can come to you if you have mobility restrictions, complex medical needs, or are living in long-term care facilities. Together, you can plan a daily oral care routine that will keep you smiling through your golden years!

Find more oral care tips for older adults at dentalhygienecanada.ca/seniors.