Good oral hygiene and dental care is critical to the well being of older adults. Unfortunately, many older adults have dental issues that could have been prevented through routine care and regular visits to a dentist. If you are an older adult with concerns about your dental care, read below for information about factors that increase the likelihood of dental issues and ways to improve your dental hygiene.
As men and women age, body tissues also age. Specifically, the soft tissues in your mouth become softer and less plastic. A reduction in saliva production increases the difficulty of chewing. According to the Missouri Gerontology Institute, older adults’ teeth may become more brittle, which increases the chances that they will decay at a quicker rate and break more easily. When older adults’ gums are cut or scraped, the cuts may become easily irritated and inflamed, which slows the healing process.
The American Dental Association suggests several ways that older adults can improve their dental hygiene. They recommend brushing and flossing at least twice daily. If you are unable to hold a toothbrush, there are accessories that older adults can use to accommodate circumstances that prevent brushing and/or flossing. The decrease in saliva production makes rinsing that much more important for older adults. Individuals should rinse their mouth after meals to ensure that food particles haven’t stuck to the gums or between teeth. Visiting a dentist regularly is critical. If you do not currently have a relationship with a dentist, inquire about services in your area.
If anxiety is keeping you from visiting a dentist, talk to a friend, family member, or mental health professional. Good dental care is essential not only for cosmetic but also for medical reasons. Ask a loved one to support you in making an appointment with a dentist and accompanying you to the visit.
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American Dental Association (2012). Oral Longevity. Retrieved September 25, 2012 from: http://www.ada.org/orallongevity.aspx.
Jerry Michel (1993). Basic Dental Health of Older Adults. Retrieved September 25, 2012 from: http://extension.missouri.edu/p/GG5.