By: Jillian Hartman, Hygienist
A healthy senior lifestyle today requires more than a regular game of pickle ball or a walk in the park. It should include attentive oral health care and a healthy brushing routine followed by a visit to your dental hygienist/dentist every six months.
Your mouth is an entryway to your body and poor oral health impacts the entire body. Bacteria that causes periodontal disease puts a person at risk for cardiovascular disease, dementia, respiratory infections, diabetes, erectile dysfunction, cancer, kidney disease, and rheumatoid arthritis.
Seniors with high blood pressure, diabetes, and other medical conditions are at a greater risk for oral health-related issues. Dental conditions associated with aging include dry mouth, root and coronal cavities, and gum disease:
- Dry mouth* leads to an increase in caries, oral yeast infections, sore gum tissue, sore throat, burning sensation, difficulty swallowing and speaking
- Root and coronal cavities can lead to pain, sensitivity, root canals or tooth loss
- Gum disease, also known as periodontitis or periodontal disease, is a result of bacteria in dental plaque that causes inflammation and bleeding of the gums and can lead to bone and tooth loss if not properly treated
Establishing a healthy dental routine can help you prevent or control an oral condition. When you visit your dental hygienist/dentist, they will discuss the importance of oral cancer screenings and caries detection, as well as provide Oral Hygiene Instruction (OHI), routine cleanings, and recommend treatment to eliminate oral pain.
Physical, sensory, and cognitive impairments can make oral health home care challenging. Recommendations for these senior patients include:
- Electric toothbrush—let the vibrations do the brushing for you! A healthy brushing routine includes using the right technique of gentle brushing for two minutes, a consistent brushing after waking and before bed, and changing the toothbrush head every three months
- Water flosser—this is a great alternative to string flossing while improving gum health; it also removes plaque and bacteria from those areas difficult to reach with a toothbrush, and allows access to periodontal pockets and easy cleaning of implants, crowns, bridges, and veneers
Both options can be easily implemented by a caretaker and provide a thorough, effective cleaning to maintain optimum oral healthcare.
Proper denture care is important for the health of your mouth as well as your dentures. Be sure to remove your full or partial dentures at night to avoid bacteria growth in your mouth or denture stomatitis (red, inflamed tissue infected with yeast). Just like your teeth, without proper attention, dentures are subject to plaque and calculus buildup, resulting in accelerated bone loss and an increased risk of illness. During your six-month dental visit, your dentist will adjust and realign your fixed and removable dentures to ensure comfort.
In the meantime, remember to:
- handle your dentures with care—do not bend or attempt to adjust the plastic or clasps;
- clean and rinse your mouth using a soft-bristled toothbrush with toothpaste, then brush and rinse your dentures the same as you brush your teeth, but with a soft-bristled denture toothbrush without toothpaste;
- remove and clean debris from your dentures after each meal;
- remove your dentures at bedtime and again gently clean them. Soak them overnight in a mild denture solution to keep them moist and maintain their shape; and,
- rinse your dentures before putting them back in your mouth to ensure removal of denture soaking solution, which can be harmful if swallowed.
Be sure to maintain a healthy brushing routine in your senior lifestyle. Mary’s Center can help you.
*Medications are a leading cause of dry mouth