As life progresses, it can bring its own set of changes. Our overall health and oral health are no exceptions to this. With these changes, our attentiveness towards our health should also increase.
Maintaining oral health is important regardless of age. This is because the aging process can cause certain changes in your mouth, making you more susceptible to dental issues such as tooth decay, tooth loss and gum disease. So, if you don’t stay on top of your oral health, dental problems can creep up unnoticed.
The good news is that a proper oral hygiene routine paired with regular dental visits can help you maintain a radiant smile. The benefits of doing so will extend beyond your oral health to ensuring overall health and well-being.
Common Dental Problems Faced by Senior Citizens
Advancing age can leave seniors at risk for a number of oral health problems, such as:
Does your mouth feel dry even after drinking water? If so, you could be suffering from dry mouth. This occurs when the glands at the back of your mouth don’t produce enough saliva, which is essential in keeping your mouth moist and protecting your teeth by washing away bacteria.
If dryness persists, it can cause discomfort and affect your ability to chew and swallow. It can also allow bacteria to spread, paving the way for other dental problems. Dry mouth can occur because of excessive drinking and smoking and as a side effect of certain medications.
As the years unfold, your gums too begin to recede. This leaves your tooth root exposed to acids in your mouth. Since your gums don’t have enamel protection like your teeth, these roots get exposed to acids in your mouth, becoming susceptible to decay.
Also known as periodontal disease, gum disease develops due to plaque build-up on your teeth. Plaque build-up can create the ideal environment for bacteria in your mouth to survive and multiply. Gum disease is of two types: gingivitis and periodontitis.
Gingivitis, or the early stage of gum disease, affects the surface layers of your gum. As a result, you may experience red and swollen gums that bleed when you brush. Left untreated, it can progress to periodontitis. At this advanced stage, it can severely weaken your gum and the bone supporting your teeth, eventually leading to gum recession.
Tooth decay is also caused by bacteria that form on your teeth. This bacteria can turn the sugar in food and drinks you consume into acids that can wear down your tooth enamel (the protective layer of your teeth), leading to cavities and even infections. The rate of tooth decay increases with age, but it can be prevented by maintaining good oral hygiene.
Tooth loss can also increase as you age. The most common causes of tooth loss are gum disease and severe tooth decay. In addition, dental trauma from injuries or accidents can also cause tooth loss. The more missing teeth you have, the more dental problems you will have to face, from bone deterioration to difficulty eating and speaking. While preventing tooth loss is the best thing you can do, if you have already lost teeth, you can act promptly to replace missing teeth.
Have you noticed your teeth appearing darker than usual? This is caused to a certain extent by changes in the dentin, the layer of the tooth under the enamel. A lifetime of indulging highly pigmented foods and drinks that cause stains and the thinning of the enamel also causes your teeth to appear a darker yellow shade.
What’s the Impact of Oral Health on Overall Health?
Your oral health affects more than just your teeth. Poor oral health can also have far-reaching consequences on your physical and mental health. It can:
- Affect your ability to chew certain foods. As a result, you may avoid certain foods, which can lead to nutritional deficiencies.
- Cause health problems such as heart disease, strokes, diabetes and pneumonia.
- Cause pain and discomfort that can lead to mood and behavioural changes.
- Leads to low self-confidence and self-isolation.
Oral Hygiene Tips for Senior Citizens
Now, let’s talk about oral hygiene. Maintaining a healthy smile as you age may require a bit of extra care, but trust us when we say it pays off. Here’s your guide to an oral care routine that will keep your smile healthy.
Brush and floss your teeth regularly
Brushing and flossing help remove bacteria and plaque from your teeth, saving you from dental problems like gum disease and tooth decay. Brushing twice daily with a soft-bristled toothbrush and flossing at least once daily will do the trick and keep decay at bay. For best results, we recommend using a toothpaste that contains fluoride.
Be mindful of your diet
A healthy diet is a powerful ally in your oral and overall health journey. Cut down on sugary and acidic foods that can accelerate tooth decay. Since your teeth begin to wear down with time, it’s also a good idea to avoid biting down on hard foods such as nuts and ice to prevent the risk of breaking your teeth.
Visit your dentist regularly
Dental visits are your smile’s best friend. We recommend scheduling a check-up and cleaning every 6 months to maintain optimal oral health. Regular dental visits allow our dentists to catch dental problems at their early stages before they progress. And if you’re already experiencing any pain or discomfort, schedule an appointment ASAP without waiting for it to worsen.
Hydration matters, especially if you take medications, as they can cause dry mouth. So, stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water, or you can also chew sugar-free gum and avoid consuming alcohol to prevent dehydrating your body.
Rinse using an antibacterial mouthwash
Rinsing your mouth with an antibacterial mouthwash will help reduce plaque build-up and tooth decay. However, keep in mind that this is not an alternative to brushing and flossing your teeth. You can always consult one of our dentists about which mouthwash to use, and we will recommend one that suits you.
Look after your dentures or other dental restorations
If you are wearing dentures or have other dental restorations, remember to maintain them properly and treat them with care, as you would your own teeth. Follow the care tips given by our dentists, and you’ll be on your way to a long-lasting smile.
Avoid smoking and alcohol consumption
By quitting smoking and cutting down on alcohol, you can significantly lower your risk of serious oral and overall health problems, including oral cancer. Smoking and chewing tobacco can also cause bad breath, stains and bacteria build-up.
Your smile deserves the best. Be proactive in your approach to oral care and keep your smile lasting longer. Need help? Contact our friendly team at Warrnambool Smile Dental to make your smile timeless.