October is National Dental Hygiene Month!
Good oral hygiene habits are important at any age. However, as we grow older, certain physiological changes, medications, and common chronic illnesses that occur with aging that may put seniors at an increased risk for dental problems.
Proper dental care may help prevent common dental problems in older adults such as tooth decay, gum disease, toothaches, and tooth loss. These can be compounded by other issues such as dry mouth, a common side effect of many over-the-counter medications that older adults take regularly.
Here are some ways which you and your loved one can help improve and maintain good dental hygiene:
- Schedule a visit with your dentist. Even if you or your loved one wears dentures, it’s important to keep up with the health of your teeth and gums. This will keep you a step ahead of potential dental problems.
- Brush and floss daily! Use a soft-bristle toothbrush and fluoride-containing toothpaste. Older individuals have an increased risk for cavities, making it important to incorporate fluoride in your routine. It’s also important to floss at least once daily.
- Care for your dentures. It’s important for you to clean your dentures on a daily basis. Follow your dentist’s recommendations on how to properly clean your dentures.
- Avoid tobacco products. Not only does smoking increase the risk of lung and other cancers, smoking or use of tobacco in any form increases the risk of mouth and throat cancer, gum disease, tooth loss, and tooth decay.
- Meet your calcium quota. Maintaining adequate daily calcium intake will help you keep your teeth strong as you age. The American Dental Association recommends 1,000 milligrams of calcium per day from low-fat dairy products to prevent osteoporosis, which can affect the bone surrounding your teeth.
- Stay hydrated. Some medications commonly taken by older adults can cause dry mouth. Be sure to drink plenty of water, chew a sugar-free gum, and avoid alcohol, which tends to dehydrate your body.
- Use an electric toothbrush. Oral hygiene aids such as electric toothbrushes can be beneficial for older adults whose movement is limited. Electric toothbrushes are also more efficient at removing plaque.
Our Happier at Home caregivers can assist your loved one in maintaining good dental hygiene. For example, if your loved one needs reminders and prompts on how and when to brush their teeth, our caregivers would be happy to help.