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Dental Care for Seniors

 

Good dental hygiene is important to your overall health, no matter what your age.

We all know the basics—you should brush twice a day and floss once a day. You should also visit your dentist for regular checkups and cleanings. But did you know seniors have a higher risk for oral health problems?

Cavities

Believe it or not, seniors are just as likely to get cavities as children. Why? Dry mouth. More than 500 medications can cause dry mouth, including those for allergies, asthma, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, pain, anxiety, depression, Parkinson’s, and Alzheimer’s. Make sure you talk to your dentist about the medications you take.

You can relieve dry mouth by drinking more water or using sugar-free gum or lozenges to stimulate saliva production. Your doctor or dentist may have other recommendations.

Gum disease

The bacteria in plaque can cause gum or periodontal disease. It’s often a painless condition so you’re not even aware of it unless you get regular dental checkups. Left untreated, gum disease can lead to tooth loss.

Here are some healthy dental habits that can help reduce your chances of cavities, gum disease, and tooth decay.

  • Brush twice a day and floss daily.
  • Clean dentures daily.
  • Visit a dentist regularly.
  • Replace your toothbrush every three months or sooner. Electric toothbrushes are a great option if you have limited movement or arthritis.
  • Drink plenty of water with fluoride. Your best bet is to drink eight, eight-ounce glasses of water a day.
  • Quit smoking. Smoking increases problems with gum disease and tooth decay.

There are times you may need to see a dentist other than your regular checkups. Here are five signs you need to schedule an appointment:

  1. Pain or swelling in your mouth.
  2. Puffy gums; they bleed when you brush or floss.
  3. Problems chewing or swallowing.
  4. Jaw pain or popping.
  5. Spots or sores in your mouth.

Sources: American Dental Association

Senior man drinking a glass of water

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