6 Tips for Seniors Who Want to Practice Good Oral Hygiene

By Pete Lane, 9:00 am on

The risk for oral health problems, such as gum disease, lost teeth, dry mouth, and root decay, increases as seniors age. Poor oral health can also lead to infections, heart disease, and diabetes. Diseases, medications, and family history can play a major role in predicting your senior loved one’s oral health. Here are some things he or she can do to keep oral health problems and other diseases at bay. 

1. Brush and Floss Daily

Your loved one has probably heard about the importance of brushing and flossing since he or she was a child. Brushing and flossing regularly are the best ways to boost and maintain oral health. Most dentists recommend brushing twice a day. As your loved one ages, he or she may benefit from more fluoride, so look for toothpastes containing higher amounts of the mineral. Encourage your loved one to floss once a day. If arthritis or another medical condition affects your loved one’s ability to floss properly, he or she can try a flossing tool or water pick. 

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2. Use a Good Toothbrush

A toothbrush with soft bristles and a small head that can get to the back of the mouth is ideal for seniors. Look for products approved by prominent dental associations. If your loved one has arthritis or another condition that makes it difficult to brush, consider buying a battery-operated toothbrush so he or she gets a good daily cleaning. Replace your loved one’s brush every three months or when the bristles start to fray. 

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3. Avoid Tobacco Products

Your loved one should stop smoking cigarettes and chewing tobacco. In addition to lung cancer, smoking can also cause cancers of the mouth and throat. Tobacco, especially products that contain sugar, can even lead to tooth decay and gum disease. Talk to your loved one’s doctor about ways to quit smoking for good. 

4. Use Antibacterial Mouthwash

Germs and bacteria in the mouth can cause a buildup of plaque, gum disease, and eventually missing teeth. Your loved one should use a mouthwash with antibacterial properties to help prevent these dental problems. Encourage him or her to use a mouthwash every time he or she brushes or flosses to rid the mouth of the bacteria stirred up while cleaning. If your loved one wears dentures, he or she may be more prone to bacteria buildups. 

5. Stay Hydrated

Water is good for all aspects of the body, including oral health. Your loved one should be drinking enough water each day, especially if he or she takes medication that causes a dry mouth. Your loved one should cut back on alcohol consumption because it can cause dehydration. He or she should also consider chewing sugar-free gum, which helps create saliva and can prevent the mouth from drying out. Over 30 percent of older adults experience dry mouth, which can lead to gum disease and tooth decay. 

6. Visit the Dentist Regularly

Regular dental exams are recommended for everyone, including seniors. Your loved one may need to go more frequently if he or she is experiencing any major changes in the mouth, such as loose teeth, difficulty eating or drinking, pain, bleeding, swelling, or lumps in the mouth. The dentist should check for different dental conditions at each visit, from tooth decay to oral cancer.

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