Just 60 years ago, it was an assumption that as we age we would lose our natural teeth. But, that’s not the case for today’s older adults who are keeping their natural teeth longer than ever before. A healthy mouth and teeth help you look good, eat delicious and nutritious foods, and speak clearly and confidently. Being mouth healthy is essential for good quality of life.
Maintaining good oral health habits now is especially important because unhealthy bacteria in the mouth not only can harm your teeth and gums, but may be associated with serious medical conditions. Research has shown that infections in the mouth may be associated with heart disease, stroke, diabetes, pneumonia, and other health problems that are common in older adults. Follow these easy tips for a happier, healthier mouth.
Brush and Floss Daily
Brushing and flossing your teeth is just as important for you as it is for your grandchildren. Even though it may have been years since you’ve had a cavity, your risk of cavities increases with age. One of the reasons is dry mouth; a common side effect of many prescription medications.
Brush your teeth twice a day with fluoride toothpaste. Choose a toothbrush with soft bristles and a small head to get to those hard to reach areas. Replace your toothbrush every three or four months, or sooner if the bristles becomes frayed. If you have arthritis or other condition that limits movement, try an electric toothbrush.
Clean between teeth daily with floss. If floss is too difficult to work with, try a floss pick or tiny brushes made specifically to clean between teeth. When you’re buying oral care products, look for the ADA Seal of Acceptance. The ADA Seal has been around since 1931, and when you see it on a package you can trust that the product is safe and does what the manufacturer advertises.
Clean Dentures Daily
Bacteria stick to your teeth and also to full or partial dentures. If you wear dentures, remember to clean them on a daily basis with cleaners made specifically for dentures. Do not use toothpastes for natural teeth or household cleaners, which are too abrasive and can damage dentures that can be expensive to replace.
Take your dentures out of your mouth for at least four hours every 24 hours to keep the lining of your mouth healthy. It’s best to remove your full or partial dentures at night. We will provide you with instructions about how long your dentures should be worn each day.
Visit a Dentist Regularly
Get regular dental checkups at least once a year; please do not wait until you have pain. Why? As you age, the nerves inside your teeth become smaller and less sensitive. By the time you feel pain from a cavity, it may be too late and you may lose your tooth. There are also more serious conditions that we will look for, like oral cancer and gum disease, which do not always cause pain until the advanced stages of the disease. By then, it’s more difficult and costly to treat.
When you come in for a check-up, bring the following information:
- List of medications, including vitamins, herbal remedies, and over-the-counter medications
- List of medical conditions and allergies
- Information and phone numbers of all health care providers, doctors, and your previous dentist
- Information about your emergency contacts, someone who can help make decisions on your behalf in the case of a medical emergency
- Dental insurance or Medicaid cards
- Your dentures or partials, even if you don’t wear them
Drink Water with Fluoride
No matter what age you are, drinking water with fluoride helps prevent tooth decay. Fluoride is nature’s cavity fighter. Many community water systems contain added fluoride, but if you prefer bottled water, check the label because some do not contain fluoride. And, some home water filters remove fluoride from the tap water. Visit the ADA Seal product search page for a list of water filters that do not remove fluoride from tap water.
It’s never too late to quit smoking. Smoking increases problems with gum disease, tooth decay, and tooth loss. It also slows down healing after dental procedures and can decrease the success rate of dental implants. Talk to us about quitting. There are tobacco cessation programs, over-the counter products and prescription medications that we may prescribe or recommend to help you quit for good. Smokefree.gov is another good resource to help you quit today.