4 Practical Ways You Can Maintain Optimal Oral Health as You Age
Dental Care Tips For Older Adults
Since childhood, the idea of taking good care of our teeth has been firmly established. We know that it’s important to brush and floss, visit your dentist regularly, and never ignore toothaches or other oral health issues. We also know that sweets and sugary drinks invite tooth decay and other dental problems. But does all of this change as we reach middle age and beyond?
The truth is sustaining a healthy smile and preventing tooth decay or gum disease requires consistent dedication at all stages of life. Just as your body and health needs evolve with age, so does your oral health. A refresher on modern oral hygiene habits and learning how to further protect your teeth and gums as an older adult will go a long way in helping you maintain as healthy of a smile as possible.
Here are four ways you can start protecting your smile starting today.
1. Learn how oral health issues change with age and how to protect your smile proactively.
Cells renew at a slower rate with age, and the immune system can become weaker, which can mean healing takes longer and infection can happen more quickly. Soft tissues in your mouth can also be thinner and less elastic, while your jaw and facial bones may have less density and strength.
These factors heighten risks of bone resorption in the jaw, especially if tooth loss has already occurred, and explain why gum disease is so common in older adults.
Older adults are also more likely to have preexisting systemic health issues that can impede oral health, like diabetes or cardiovascular disease. Several medications for treating medical conditions can also negatively impact teeth and gums by causing chronic dry mouth a condition called xerostomia.
Be sure your dentist is aware of any changes to your health or medical history and that your records accurately show which medications you’re currently taking.
2. Maintain a balanced diet and supplement with additional vitamins or minerals as necessary.
Diet has a significant impact on oral health. A diet based on heavily processed foods dominant in starches and sugars can wreak havoc on your teeth and gums, while a balanced diet based on lean protein, healthy fats, and plenty of fresh produce encourages a healthy smile. Don’t forget to drink plenty of water throughout the day.
Vitamins and minerals play an integral role in maintaining optimal oral health. Vitamins D and K, calcium, potassium, and phosphorus are necessary for strong jaws and teeth. Vitamins A and C help prevent gum disease, bolster the immune system, and encourage healthy tissue growth.
We recommend speaking with your primary care provider (PCP) before starting any supplementation, as some vitamins and minerals can interfere with certain medical conditions and medications. A simple lab blood test can be done to determine your nutritional deficiencies.
3. Establish a thorough, twice-daily dental care routine and see your dentist every six months.
Your at-home dental care habits form the foundation of your overall health. Brush your teeth at least twice daily for a solid two minutes, using the proper technique. Don’t feel embarrassed about setting a timer; many adults don’t brush long enough.
Floss at least once a day, and take care that you’re brushing between each tooth all the way to the gum line. Older adults are more likely to have limited mobility, so if your hands or wrists feel fatigued when brushing or flossing, try upgrading to a powered toothbrush and a water flosser system. Flosser picks are also handy for removing larger pieces of stuck food.
Continue seeing your dentist every six months, even if your teeth feel fine. These preventive care visits should be seen as a necessity or nonnegotiable for protecting your oral health. If you have gingivitis or are prone to gum disease, your dentist may even recommend more frequent visits, such as every 3 to 4 months.
4. Keep active and consider pursuing other lifestyle changes to boost your health.
Staying active is one of the best things you can do to protect your health as you age. We’ve talked before about how to stay active while aging , but we also want to tie the connection between physical activity and oral health. Leading an active lifestyle isn’t just for the benefit of your body and brain. Regular exercise boosts the immune system, which helps prevent gum disease and aids in healing from oral disease or surgery.
We also encourage tobacco users to strongly consider quitting their habit. Smoking, chewing tobacco and vaping greatly increase your risk of developing gum disease and oral cancer. Smoking is especially dangerous for oral health as it increases your risk of periodontitis, the most advanced form of gum disease, two-fold.
If you’re interested in quitting, here are some resources to help.
Book a checkup or consultation with the best dentist in The Villages.
If it’s been close to, or over six months, since your last checkup and cleaning, it’s time to book a visit with Dr. Rozensky. He’ll evaluate your smile, explain any issues he might find, and discuss how you can maintain optimal oral health as you age. Our hygienist will also perform a thorough dental cleaning which includes scaling and possibly also root planing if you have any active gum disease.
Dr. Rozensky is always happy to discuss new ways for patients to achieve a vibrant and healthy smile, especially if they’re currently unhappy with how their teeth look or feel. A consultation visit is a great way to have a one-on-one conversation about the changes you’d like for your teeth or gums or to discuss upgrading older dentures or bridge restorations to dental implant options.
Schedule an appointment at Laurel Manor Dental by calling our office or filling out this online request form.