Oral Health for Seniors
A Healthy Smile Can Last a Lifetime
People in your age group are living longer, healthier lives than before. You probably feel good and enjoy an active lifestyle. It only makes sense, then, to try to stay healthy.
Unfortunately, too many older adults ignore an important part of their general health — their oral health. Some mistakenly feel that tooth loss is inevitable in later years. Others do not understand how oral health contributes to total well-being.
Whatever your age, it's easy to keep your mouth clean, healthy, and feeling good. All it usually takes is your own daily effort combined with regular professional care.
Here are some of the things modern dentistry can do for you...
Dental decay can be treated quickly and comfortably — and can often be prevented with help from the newer fluoride products and artificial saliva's now on the market. The causes of tooth decay are the same for everyone, regardless of age. However, because root surface decay is more prevalent among older adults, it's especially important to brush twice a day with a fluoride toothpaste. It's also necessary to clean between your teeth daily with floss or other interdental cleaners, and see your dentist regularly. If you do experience root decay, new bonding techniques can match restorations to the color of your natural teeth as well as protect non-decayed root surfaces that are exposed by receding gums. ( See also: Oral hygine.)
If you experience dry mouth due to a medical condition or certain medications, it can be alleviated with an artificial saliva recommended by your dentist. Whatever the cause, the effects of dry mouth can be devastating. Saliva is needed to lubricate the mouth, wash food away from around the teeth, and neutralize the decay-causing acids produced by plaque bacteria.
Newer diagnostic and treatment methods can help prevent periodontal (gum) disease or halt its progress. Symptoms of this disease include bleeding and tender gums, constant bad breath, receding gums, and loose teeth. Because gum disease is a leading cause of tooth loss in adults, proper oral hygiene at home and professional care are essential. You can help your teeth last a lifetime!
( See also: Gum Disease.)
If arthritis, stroke or some other medical condition decreases your ability to brush and floss ( important tools in the fight against tooth decay and gum disease ) you dentist can suggest adaptive devices to help you. These include extenders for toothbrush handles, specially designed floss holders, and other interdental cleaners.
Regular visits to the dentist do more than keep your teeth and gums healthy. Your dentist is specially trained to recognize the early signs of oral cancer , adverse drug interactions , and a host of systemic diseases whose symptoms are reflected in the mouth, such as diabetes, leukemia and anemia.
If you wear dentures , regular dental examinations are important to make sure your dentures continue to fit properly and look attractive. For some people, another option for replacing one or more missing teeth is a dental implant, which permanently attaches replacement teeth to the gums or jawbone.
Following a program of good oral care can greatly contribute to your overall nutrition and general well-being. You'll be able to chew more easily, digest food better, and enjoy a wide variety of nutritious foods.
Maintaining good oral health is ultimately your responsibility. By practicing daily oral hygiene at home, eating nutritious meals, and making regular dental visits, you will help ensure that your mouth stays healthy. A bright, healthy smile can make you feel and look good — throughout your life!