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Best Dental Care Practices for Seniors

February 14, 2023

Most people learn healthy dental hygiene habits early in life, such as brushing and flossing, to steer clear of cavities and ensure optimal oral health. Likewise, keeping their teeth and gums in excellent shape as they age remains an essential part of their daily routine. Since older adults are vulnerable to oral conditions that younger individuals can easily avoid, experts in family dentistry in Aurora, CO, highlight the importance of elderly dental care.

Dental care practices for seniors recognize how the natural aging process impacts teeth and gum health. Moreover, a lifetime of habits contributes to a person's oral health state. For this reason, older adults with special considerations should follow a strict tooth and mouth care regimen. Conversely, neglecting oral hygiene complicates a senior's dental health and affects their overall quality of life.

Dentist checking on an elderly patient's mouth as a part of family dentistry services in Aurora, CO

Senior Dental Care

Schedule Regular Dental Visits

Older adults should visit the dentist at least twice a year or as directed by their dentist to ensure good oral health and prevent or diagnose potential problems early on. During these visits, the dentist or dental hygienist examines the teeth and gums to look for signs of decay, infection, gum disease, or other issues. In addition, they eliminate built-up plaque and tartar using special cleaning instruments.  

Since oral cancer commonly affects seniors, the dentist also checks for signs of the disease. Early detection of oral cancer increases a patient’s chances for successful treatment and recovery. If the patient has issues related to ill-fitting dentures or broken bridgework, the dentist can identify and treat them to prevent discomfort and infection.

Chronic medical conditions like diabetes or cardiovascular disease can significantly affect a senior's oral health. For instance, seniors with high blood sugar levels should visit their dentist regularly to reduce their risk for tooth decay and gum disease. The dentist ensures that the patient gets the best care possible by monitoring and managing these conditions and working with the patient's primary care physician.

Brush At Least Twice a Day

Practicing excellent oral hygiene goes a long way in maintaining good oral health and preventing gum disease and tooth loss. For this reason, seniors should brush their teeth at least twice a day, once in the morning and once before bed. However, some dentists recommend brushing between meals. Unless the dentist instructs them to use a hard-bristled toothbrush, soft-bristled ones are the best choice.

Since older adults need to maintain a well-established brushing routine, those with limited dexterity can benefit from using electric toothbrushes. Besides being easier to hold and maneuver than a manual toothbrush, an electric toothbrush can have a built-in timer that helps seniors brush for the recommended two minutes. Moreover, they can also come with pressure sensors that alert the user if they’re brushing too vigorously.

It's worth noting that seniors should replace their toothbrushes every three months at the minimum or sooner if the bristles become frayed or worn. Doing so allows them to prevent bacterial buildup on the toothbrush while ensuring that the bristles can effectively clean areas.  

Floss Daily

Although flossing may be troublesome for some, its benefits far outweigh their perceived inconvenience. Daily flossing can significantly improve oral health outcomes and lower the risk of tooth decay and gum disease. Seniors with dental bridges or other hardware in the mouth may have difficulty flossing. Fortunately, dental hygienists can go over special flossing techniques and recommend tools to effectively clean around the hardware and prevent plaque and tartar buildup.  

For instance, they may suggest using floss threaders or interdental brushes to clean around the abutment teeth or under the bridgework. Likewise, they may advise seniors with dentures to use special brushes or picks for cleaning the areas around and underneath their dentures.

Rinse with an Antiseptic or Antibacterial Mouthwash

Older adults should rinse with an ADA-approved antiseptic or antibacterial mouthwash one to two times daily. It's important to note that while using mouthwash is vital to your oral hygiene routine, it's not a substitute for brushing and flossing. While at it, seniors should choose alcohol-free mouthwash to prevent dry mouth and ensure comfort.

An antiseptic mouthwash has agents that help eliminate or inhibit bacterial, viral, and microbial growth in the mouth. Consequently, it helps reduce a senior’s risk of oral infections, including gingivitis and gum disease. Alternatively, an antibacterial mouthwash specifically targets and eliminates oral bacteria, which is especially beneficial for seniors with a higher risk of tooth decay and gum disease due to weakened immune systems.  

Drink Plenty of Water

Older adults taking medications that cause dry mouth are at high risk of enamel erosion. While they can always ask their primary care physician to switch their medications if necessary, increasing their daily water intake can help combat dry mouth. However, the amount of water they need may vary depending on several factors, including climate, body weight, and energy output. Health experts typically recommend drinking 64 ounces of water each day.

Limit Sugar Intake

Consuming too much sugar can lead to tooth decay, a common problem among seniors. As oral bacteria feed on sugar, they produce acid that weakens the tooth enamel, leading to tooth decay and cavities. In addition, high sugar intake increases the risk of developing chronic conditions, such as diabetes, that negatively impact oral health.  

For these reasons, older adults should consume less sugar. If they get an occasional sugary treat, they should brush their teeth immediately afterward.

Take Calcium and Vitamin D Supplements

For this reason, seniors may not get enough calcium from their diet alone. This mineral is necessary for older adults to maintain a healthy balance of minerals in their teeth because it helps form and maintain the tooth enamel’s structure, remineralize teeth, and preserve jawbone volume and density.  

However, an aging body may not absorb calcium as well as it used to. Taking calcium supplements is an excellent way for older adults to ensure they get enough calcium. Furthermore, vitamin D is also necessary for the body to absorb calcium. For this reason, dental health professionals recommend taking a calcium and vitamin D supplement together.

An elderly woman smiling after getting family dentistry services in  Aurora, CO

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