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June 14, 2018

Oral Health and Aging: What to Know

“As you get older, everyday wear and tear takes a toll on your teeth. But there’s plenty you can do to keep them in great shape.” (WebMD.com)

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, by the time you reach the age of 65, there is a 95% chance that he or she has a cavity, with one in five older adults having untreated tooth decay. And, about two in every three older adults (aged 65 or older) have gum disease. Fortunately, although you can’t turn back the clock, there are actions you can take to maintain the best oral health possible, including these six dental care strategies.

6 Oral Health Care Tips for Older Adults

Clean Teeth and Healthy Gums

Regular appointments with your dentist are important, as is following his or her recommendations to regularly brush and floss and the like. Keeping gums healthy is also key; if you don’t effectively remove bacteria (plaque) from your teeth, you may experience tooth decay along with sore, swelling and/or bleeding gums, with infections that can even damage bone. If your gums bleed when you brush your teeth or pull back from your teeth, see your dentist. Also let your dentist know if you have loose teeth or bad breath, as those are also potential signs of gum disease.

Reduce Wear and Tear

To keep your teeth in as good of shape as possible, cut down on the amount of wear and tear you expose them to–which means avoiding hard foods. If you like to chew on ice, stop. Besides contributing to everyday wear, chewing on hard foods and/or ice can create chips in the outer layer of your teeth, its enamel, and can even lead to broken teeth. If you grind your teeth at night, your dentist can provide you with a night guard.

Limit Acidic Foods

Limit the intake of acidic foods, which can wear away tooth enamel. This includes citrus fruits and juices, fizzy drinks, and sugary and starchy foods (which cause your mouth to make acid). If you do eat acidic foods, “cancel out” the acid by following them up with milk or cheese; if you plan to eat sugary or starchy foods, include them with your main meals, not as snacks.

Manage Sensitive Teeth

Worn enamel, tooth decay and gum problems can all contribute to increased sensitivity, and you can experience pain when you brush your teeth more firmly or eat or drink something hot or cold. Besides maintaining your regular dental care practices, if you have sensitive teeth, ask your dentist about the best toothpaste for your situation. There may also be an in-office treatment that can help.

Dry Mouth

If you experience dry mouth, that’s often a side effect of medications, rather than an oral health issue. If the medicines that are causing dry mouth symptoms are ones your doctor wants you to continue to take (rather than trying an alternative medicine), the National Institute of Health’s Medline Plus suggests you drink plenty of water. You can also use artificial saliva products, or chew gum or suck on lozenges with xylitol and/or use mouth rinses.

Cancer Checks

Ask your dentist if he or she regularly performs oral cancer checks. Although it sounds scary to have this check performed, most of the time cancer isn’t suspected. And, if something does look suspicious, the earlier this condition is found, the more likely it is that treatment outcomes will be successful.

And, no matter what this oral health check shows, if you smoke, stop.

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Healthy aging is hard on your own. Kendal at Home can help you age well and enjoy your retirement.

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