Senior Oral Healthcare: Some Things Never Change (And Some Do!)

It doesn’t matter if you’re five or 75 – some things never change.

Tooth decay is the most common chronic disease among children1 and people ages 65 and older.2 Ninety percent of 65-plus-year-olds have cavities, and 25 percent of those people have untreated decay.2 In fact, one-quarter of seniors haven’t visited the dentist in the past five years.2 Keeping regular dentist appointments is important to having good oral health well into your golden years. Even seniors with dentures or tooth implants should visit the dentist for regular cleanings and consultations. Checkups also let the dentist look for signs of dry mouth, gum disease, and oral cancer.

Another thing that hasn’t changed since you were using a stepstool to reach the sink: good brushing and flossing habits. Seniors should keep brushing twice daily with fluoride toothpaste and flossing once a day.

There are definitely some new oral-health concerns that come with getting older. Common illnesses affecting seniors and the medications they take often produce dry mouth as a side effect. Dry mouth can lead to dental decay, denture sores, and eating difficulties – and it’s not simply a normal part of aging.3 Drinking fluids, chewing sugar-free gum, and using a humidifier at night may help – and so does seeing your dentist regularly.  Dentists may be able to determine what’s causing the problem and recommend treatments or an over-the-counter artificial saliva replacement.3

Seniors should also keep a close eye out for periodontal (gum) disease, which can progress slowly and painlessly over time.3 Although it’s a major cause of adult tooth loss, it’s preventable and even reversible when caught early, making early detection essential.3 Symptoms include bleeding gums during brushing, loose teeth or teeth moving apart, change in bite or the fit of partial dentures, or constant bad breath or bad taste in the mouth.3 If you identify these signs, consult the dentist right away.

If you or someone you know is moving to a nursing home, ask the potential new home if their staff is trained in basic mouth care and how to recognize oral problems, if on-call dental professionals are available, and if mouth care is emphasized at least once a day.3



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