Oral Health and Seniors

Calgary dentures-Oral Health and Seniors

Aging and oral health

Thanks to advancements in health, science, and medicine, today, seniors are living longer and healthier lives. Compared to previous generations, seniors are keeping their smiles healthier and longer than previous generations. Thus, it’s important to maintain your oral health so that you can keep your smile healthy for life.

Poor oral hygiene leads to poor oral health which can lead to oral health problems, such as decay, gum disease, and oral infections. Oral infections have been linked to other serious health complications like diabetes, heart disease, and even pneumonia. The best way to keep your teeth and gums healthy is by daily brushing and flossing and visiting your dentist.

Follow these simple daily rules for a healthy mouth:

  • Brush and floss every day.
  • Avoid or cut back on alcohol consumption.
  • Avoid tobacco. If you do smoke, consider quitting or at least cutting back.
  • Maintain a healthy balanced diet with plenty of water, vegetables, fruits, and fiber.
  • Cut back on sugar intake.
  • Visit your dentist every 6 months. If there is anything about your oral health you wish to understand, don’t hesitate to ask your dentist. Also, please update your dentist on any medications you are taking.

As we get older, we can be faced with oral health complications that can be caused by:

  • Changes to our body health due to aging.
  • Increased reliance on medications and changes to our physical and cognitive abilities and diet.
  • Difficulty accessing proper dental care due to decreased mobility.

Here are some other factors that you may want to discuss with your dentist:

Cavities and decay –Due to the lack of fluoride in the previous generations, many seniors didn’t have adequate access to fluoride when growing up. As a result, they were more susceptible to developing cavities and having more fillings than today’s generation. If these fillings aren’t properly cleaned and maintained, they can develop re-decay which can cause oral health problems, like gum disease and gum recession.

Gum disease –Gum disease (which includes both gingivitis and periodontal disease) is caused by plaque buildup on your teeth and gums. It’s been shown that seniors are more prone to plaque buildup so require good oral hygiene to keep their teeth and gums healthy. This includes daily brushing and flossing and regular dental visits.

Oral cancer –Older patients are more susceptible to oral cancer. This means that regular dental visits are vital for spotting and treating oral growth abnormalities early on before they become serious.

Dry mouth (xerostomia) –Saliva is important since it helps to protect your teeth and gums from harmful bacteria which can cause decay. However, certain medications can decrease saliva secretion resulting in a very dry mouth. Dry mouth can lead to bacteria growth and increase the risks of decay and oral infections since your mouth lacks the protective coating of saliva. If you have dry mouth, be sure to drink plenty of water and avoid caffeine, tobacco, and refined sugar which can dry out your mouth further.

Medications – Many older patients are given medications that have sugar and can cause dry mouth - increasing the chances of oral health problems, such as decay and oral infections. Certain prescribed medications and treatments that can cause dry mouth include:

  • Antidepressants.
  • Antihistamines.
  • Pain medications.
  • Chemotherapy and cancer therapies that treat the head and neck areas.
  • Medications for states of anxiety, Sjogren Syndrome, HIV/AIDS, diabetes, Parkinson's disease.

Also, certain foods such as caffeine and tobacco can increase dry mouth.

If you are taking any medication, it’s important to let your dentist know about them as well as any symptoms (like swelling or abnormal bleeding) you may have.

Diet –As we get older, changes to our teeth and gums can decrease the quality of our diet and lead to oral health complications. Reasons for a poorer diet include weak or missing teeth, previous decay, reduced appetite, physical limitations, dementia and Alzheimer's. As a result, it’s important to keep your smile healthy by maintaining a healthy balanced diet. By eating healthier foods, which includes plenty of vegetables and fruits, you will be helping to keep your teeth and gums in optimal shape.

Health conditions –Oral health problems can make you more susceptible to health complications including:

Gum diseaseGum disease is an infection of your oral tissues. Besides causing gum recession and tooth loss, gum disease can increase the risks of respiratory infections or the worsening of existing cardiovascular conditions.

Diabetes - Seniors with diabetes are more at risks of having periodontal disease. Periodontal disease can cause severe gum erosion and tooth loss. Thus, if you have diabetes, be sure to visit your dentist regularly.

Lower immune system - Seniors with lower immune systems caused by certain medications or existing illnesses are more at risk of developing oral infections.

Sensitive Teeth –Many older individuals have sensitive teeth due to factors such as prolonged overaggressive brushing, poor oral hygiene, gum disease which caused from gum recession, teeth grinding, and broken teeth. Tooth sensitivity can make it difficult to consume hot and cold foods, as well as foods that have sugar or acid.

Dentures –Many seniors wear dentures to replace their missing teeth. To keep your dentures in optimal shape and keep your mouth healthy, it’s important to clean and maintain your dentures properly. This includes removing them regularly and cleaning all the surfaces with a denture brush. To ensure that your dentures fit comfortably, visiting your dentist for a denture reline periodically. Besides cleaning your dentures, be sure brush and floss your remaining teeth and gums daily.

Ways for seniors to improve your oral health:

Be sure to visit your dentist regularly for a checkup. If you have any questions, be sure to ask your dentist. Also, let your dentist know about any symptoms or medications that you are currently taking.

Brushing and flossing - Using a soft-bristled toothbrush, brush all of your teeth’s surfaces for 2 minutes. Replace your toothbrush every 3-6 months to ensure the bristles are good shape. Floss any remaining teeth to remove any harmful plaque.

If you have mobility issues, such as arthritis, that make brushing difficult, speak to your dentist about your options.

Denture Care - Be sure to remove and clean your dentures daily to keep them in good shape. To avoid accidentally damaging your dentures while cleaning, place a towel in your sink and fill it up with water. Be sure to keep your dentures moist when not in use and never let them dry out. Always soak them in denture cleaner or water when not wearing them.

Never expose your dentures to hot temperatures, including hot water, since it can warp its structure.

Tips for Caregivers - If you are caring for a senior who has physical or cognitive limitations, please check the state of their oral health by checking their mouth for any problems. Be sure that they are visiting their dentist regularly so that any oral health problems can be spotted and treated right away. If possible, accompany them to the dentist so that the dentist can have a better understanding about their specific health and medical needs.

Contact Us at Hillhurst Denture Clinic in Calgary, Albertato set up an appointment today.