Many seniors believe an increase in oral issues and tooth loss is just a natural part of aging. But the truth is that your age alone has a small impact, if any, on your oral health. However, many prescribed medications for conditions such as high blood pressure and diabetes can cause dry mouth, which can leave you more prone to developing oral health issues. Additionally, physical concerns like arthritis can make it more difficult to regularly brush and floss on a daily basis, also leading to gum and tooth issues.
We know that it can be easy to forget or dislike oral hygiene. So, in order to give you some extra motivation, we’re here to give you insight into why oral hygiene is so important.
For starters, maintaining good oral hygiene is important, especially for seniors. According to the Centers for Disease Control, poor oral health can lead to chronic diseases or even oral cancer. Here are five additional reasons to continue to practice (or start practicing) good oral hygiene:
Saliva is important for healthy teeth and gums. It helps keep the mouth moist, protects from tooth decay and helps control bacteria, fungi, and viruses in the mouth. Without saliva, the risk for cavities and gum disease rises. Since roughly 30% of seniors experience dry mouth, talk to your dentist about how you can avoid it.
Also known as periodontal disease, this is caused by plaque buildup. Bacteria in plaque can irritate the gums, making them more likely to become swollen or even bleed. Unfortunately, gum disease is widespread in adults mainly due to the painless early stages. Over time, gums can actually pull away from the teeth and form pockets where bits of food can become stuck. In advanced forms, tooth loss can occur. You can prevent gum disease with regular dentist checkups and proper oral care.
Over time, gums naturally recede, exposing more of your teeth. These areas are normally not protected by tooth enamel and can be very sensitive to hot, cold, sweet or sour food. However, tooth sensitivity can also be an indication of a more serious problem, like a cavity or chipped tooth. In this case, a consultation with your dentist is necessary.
Did you know that your sense of taste dulls over time? In the case of oral hygiene, this can be caused by insufficient care of the teeth, gums, and tongue. Even some medications can also dull the sense of taste.
Serious diseases can originate from infections within the mouth. For example, it’s possible that stuck food particles can move into the lungs during normal breathing. This can lead to a lung infection, which can cause pneumonia. Another problem with mouth infections is that they can spread to the inner lining of the heart which can be very serious.
The American Dental Association recommends brushing and flossing at least two times per day and rinsing with an antiseptic mouth wash once or twice a day. Additionally, it is recommended to schedule dental exams and cleanings twice per year and address any changes in gum health, including bleeding gums or tooth sensitivity, with your dentist as they occur.
At Peabody Retirement Community, we offer a range of services and amenities including on-site wellness and fitness programs at the Billie Jane Strauss Wellness Center, nutritious community dining options, regular social events and more. Our goal is to ensure every senior has access to the things they need to live an active, healthy and independent life, no matter what their age.
Are you or a loved one considering making a move to a senior living community? Contact us today for more information and to set up a tour.