Blue Ridge Health Clinic
As we get older, dental care becomes more and more valuable to your overall health. Many senior citizens experience dental problems, but it’s good to know that these problems can be reduced and improved by a few simple techniques. Basically, changes take place in your mouth as you age — gums soften and the muscles in your mouth become weak. Saliva production is reduced as is the ability to chew your food.
Tooth decay may increase when we age – one of the results of reduced saliva in the mouth. It’s more difficult to use fillings to restore teeth because the decay often occurs near the gum line. Teeth often become brittle with aging because the pulp of the tooth becomes smaller, resulting in less fluid to the teeth. Teeth become brittle and can be easily chipped.
Periodontal disease often happens during the aging process. This causes swollen gums that bleed even when brushing your teeth. Loss of teeth can occur when food is trapped between the teeth and gums in tiny pockets. If you suspect periodontal disease, you should seek treatment immediately to avoid tooth loss.
You can improve your dental hygiene by practicing a few basic techniques, including:
- Brushing and flossing – It’s best to use a medium soft brush and paste. If you can’t appropriately grip a toothbrush because of arthritis or other joint problems, you can purchase a rubber strap that helps you secure a better grip. Be sure to brush your teeth, tongue and gums thoroughly after every meal. Flossing every day gets rid of debris that toothbrushes can’t reach and is essential to good dental hygiene.
- Rinse – As the flow of saliva is reduced, it’s more likely that food particles will damage your teeth and gums. Rinsing gets rid of the particles. Since some mouth washes are irritating to the gums, dilute it if necessary.
- Gauze wipes – If it’s difficult for you to brush or rinse, try wiping your teeth with gauze – this will help remove some of the debris found around the teeth and gums.
- Electric tooth brushes and irrigators – Electric tooth brushes are a boon to senior citizens. They’re easier to handle and very effective in cleaning teeth. Irrigators remove debris from teeth that toothbrushes miss, but can damage gums if it pushes food particles into gum pockets.
- Glycerine – A flavored lubricant that can stop irritation of the gums. It can also help stimulate saliva production.
A solid plan for better oral dental hygiene can reduce your risk for tooth decay and gum disease. If you have dentures, talk with your dentist about the difference in promoting good oral hygiene. Dentures are like your real teeth in that they can cause problems with gums if they aren’t properly taken care of.
Please, do your research on good dental hygiene and develop daily techniques that will ensure your dental health as you age. Your dentist can also help you develop a plan.