Maintaining a healthy smile is a lifetime job, and as you age oral health related issues can become more apparent as you get older. This means older adults may experience a few age-related changes with their teeth and gums.
Three common dental health challenges that older adults encounter:
Tooth Decay — Tooth decay and cavities affect both children and adults, but are a common problem for people 65 years and older. According to the Center for Disease Control, almost 96% of adults aged 65+ have had at least one cavity and 20% currently have untreated tooth decay.
Dry mouth — Did you know that saliva plays an important role in protecting your teeth and gums from plaque and other unhealthy bacteria? This means people who experience dry mouth, often see an increase in tooth decay. Drink plenty of water to help wash away bacteria and talk to your dentist about the causes of dry mouth.
Gum Disease — Also known as periodontal disease, gum disease affects people of all ages, but it worsens the longer it’s left untreated. While there are many factors that cause it, a foundation of proper brushing and flossing can prevent gum disease.
Older adults who have trouble gripping a standard toothbrush should ask their dentist for modified toothbrushes to better accommodate them. They may also want to consider a battery-powered toothbrush. Additionally, regular trips to the dentist are vital. Your dentist will be able to detect the presence of gum disease and create an oral health plan with you to treat it.
Quality dental health for older adults isn’t something that takes a lot of time and work. However, combating age-related changes does require dedication to healthy habits.
Follow these tips for a smile that will last a lifetime:
- Brush your teeth twice a day with a fluoride toothpaste and rinse your mouth out thoroughly after brushing.
- Floss daily to remove food particles between your teeth.
- Avoid sugary foods and drinks because they can promote tooth decay.
- Avoid tobacco products.
- Keep regular appointments with the dentist.
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Editor’s Note: Content updated April 2019.