As you age, your risk for tooth decay and loss, gum disease and oral cancers increases. Fortunately, you can lower the likelihood of developing dental problems by caring for your smile. Follow these tips compiled by our team here at LifeStream at Sun City independent living community to prioritize your dental health during retirement.
Food residue and bacteria combine to form a sticky substance called plaque that coats the teeth. If left in place, plaque can irritate the gums and contribute to tooth decay. Brushing your teeth twice daily is an effective way to remove plaque.
To protect your teeth and gums, choose a soft-bristled toothbrush. Apply toothpaste and then hold the brush at a 45-degree angle to your gums. Be sure to brush the fronts, tops and backs of each tooth. A good rule of thumb is to spend at least 2 minutes brushing your teeth.
If you find it difficult to hold your toothbrush at the correct angle or maneuver the brush, consider investing in an electric toothbrush. Many electric models feature timers that make brushing for the correct length of time a little easier.
Plaque can get trapped between teeth, where it’s difficult to access with a brush. That’s why it’s important to clean in between your teeth at least once per day.
One way to tackle the job is with conventional dental floss. Waxed varieties may be easier to work with, and many feature flavors to make flossing more pleasant. If you struggle with conventional floss, there are effective alternatives available, such as:
If you wear dentures, maintaining them properly is important for your oral health. Regular daily care can also help keep your dentures in good condition so they can last as long as possible. Here are some denture care best practices to follow:
Many older adults experience dry mouth, an oral health condition that occurs when there isn’t enough saliva present to properly lubricate the teeth, gums and soft tissues in the mouth. Medications and health conditions are the leading causes of the problem.
Symptoms of dry mouth include:
If you have any of the above symptoms, let your dentist know. They can recommend treatments like rinses, sprays and chewing gums that can help keep your mouth hydrated.
A well-balanced diet can help support strong, healthy teeth as you age. Eat a variety of foods each day and focus on whole grains, fruits, vegetables, lean protein and low and fat-free dairy products. Limit the amount of sweets you eat daily, as sugar can increase the risk of tooth decay. Also, drink plenty of water to lower the likelihood of dry mouth.
Smoking cigarettes and using smokeless tobacco can increase the risk for oral health problems like gum disease and oral cancer. In fact, seniors aged 65 and older who smoke are twice as likely to have untreated tooth decay as older adults who are nonsmokers. These products can also stain your teeth and detract from your appearance.
If you use tobacco products, talk to your health care provider about cessation options. Prescription medications and nicotine replacement therapy products can help make it easier to quit.
The average age for oral cancer diagnosis is 64, and the likelihood of developing the disease increases with age. When caught early, oral cancer is often easier to treat, making it important that you keep an eye out for warning signs. Let your health care provider know if any of the following problems persist for more than 2 weeks:
Regular visits to the dentist are vital to your dental health. During a visit, a hygienist will give your teeth a thorough cleaning to remove plaque and tartar. Dental X-rays may also be performed to check the health of your jaw and teeth.
Most seniors benefit from seeing their dentist once every 6 months. However, you may need more frequent visits if you have an oral health condition. Talk to your dentist about what schedule is right for you. To find a new dentist in the Sun City, AZ, area, use this handy tool provided by the American Dental Association.