Oral Care for Seniors

For past generations, the idea of losing permanent teeth and being dependent on dentures may have been inevitable and accepted. Today we have the preventive advantage, and routine dental care throughout a lifetime is helping Americans keep their teeth longer. However, oral health includes more than teeth and older adults should be aware of the best way to keep their mouths healthy forever. The two most common issues in oral care as we age are dry mouth and difficulty brushing and flossing properly.

The saliva in our mouths helps kill bacteria and rebuild enamel, protecting the teeth and preventing oral disease. This is why dry mouth increases the risk of cavities and contributes to a general decline in oral health. Saliva production can slow with age, but prescription medications are the greatest cause of dry mouth. ManyAmericans take both prescription and over-the-counter drugs, and according to the CDC over 400 commonly used medications can contribute to dry mouth. Any medication change should be revealed to your dentist, and you should review medication changes and interactions with the prescribing doctor to discuss potential side effects. If you do experience dry mouth, drink water and don’t wait until you’re thirsty! Gum and lozenges can prolong your teeth’s exposure to sugar, and water is the best way to provide your mouth with consistent moisture when saliva is lacking.

New physical challenges also arise as people age, and some seniors may find it harder to brush, floss, and take care of their teeth like they used to. Loss of a strong grip or fine motor control can lead to trouble brushing and flossing, but simple modifications and tools can help overcome that obstacle. Trouble handling or gripping the toothbrush for an amount of time can be solved by wrapping the handle in a washcloth or modifying the grip with material like a pool noodle. Flossing can also be challenging with less movement control, but products like floss picks and interdental brushes help clean between teeth without traditional dental floss. Electric toothbrushes can help vibrate plaque away, and water flossers are great tools for keeping the mouth clean if you just can’t floss like you used to. Don’t let oral health fall victim to other issues, adapt your routine and keep your mouth healthy!

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