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Healthy Aging: The Importance of Dental Health for Older Adults

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Most of us know the importance of brushing and flossing each day to promote our dental health. But as we grow older, it can become more challenging to take care of our teeth. Common dental issues among older adults include tooth decay, sensitive teeth, gum disease, dry mouth, and tooth loss. Poor dental care is also linked to other senior health issues including heart disease, pneumonia, and diabetes.

With proper oral hygiene and regular dental checkups, it’s possible to keep most or all of your natural teeth for a lifetime and avoid the need for dentures. Here are some ways to maintain a healthy mouth and protect your teeth at any age.

Brush twice a day

The American Dental Association recommends older adults at least brush twice a day with a soft-bristle toothbrush to maintain healthy teeth and gums. Cavities, or tooth decay, is common among older adults due to natural changes in aging. In fact, seniors often develop cavities at higher rates than children. By the time a cavity causes pain, it may be too late to save the tooth. Brushing and flossing can be extremely difficult for seniors who have arthritis in their hands and fingers or have problems with manual dexterity. Using an electric toothbrush or electric water flosser may make these tasks more comfortable for older adults.

Treat dry mouth

Dry mouth is not a natural aspect of aging; however many older adults experience dry mouth due to over-the-counter and prescription medications. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, over 400 commonly used medications cause dry mouth. If left untreated, dry mouth can damage your teeth by causing tooth and root decay, which can lead to infections and tooth loss. Check with your doctor to see if any medications you take cause dry mouth, then visit your dentist to learn about treatment options to protect your teeth.

Schedule regular dental visits

It’s important to visit your dentist on a regular basis to receive checkups, cleanings, x-rays, and oral exams. With consistent dental visits, gum disease and tooth decay can be treated or prevented entirely. During your appointment, your dentist will also examine your mouth and neck for early signs of oral cancer. Early detection of oral cancer can save lives, especially because oral cancer doesn’t typically cause pain in its early stages and can be difficult to detect without regular screenings.

You don’t need to give up your beautiful smile as you grow older! With proper care and attention to your teeth and mouth, you can enjoy having a healthy smile well into your retirement years. If you or a senior loved one are having difficulty practicing good oral hygiene or other daily tasks, it may be time to look into the benefits of assisted living, where dedicated care staff are available to assist at any time of day or night.

Written by Bethany Village

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