As we advance in age, paying attention to oral health may not seem like a top priority. However, many do not know the dangers in neglecting dental hygiene over the age of 60. Research shows that unhealthy bacteria in the mouth is not only harmful to your teeth and gums, but could also be linked to other serious health conditions, such as heart disease, stroke, diabetes and pneumonia. Moreover, older adults are also at risk for developing certain mouth problems, including, darkened teeth, tooth loss, root decay, gum disease and even taste loss.
The good news? Combating these problems is often very simple—as long as you’re willing to put in the effort.
Here are a few tips for protecting yourself from oral health issues:
Don’t stop brushing and flossing: As you age, you should continue to brush your teeth on a regular basis. Brushing your teeth at least twice a day with fluoride toothpaste can help prevent dangerous plaque buildup, which can lead to tooth decay and gum disease. Flossing daily removes food and bacteria from in between the teeth – areas that we can’t reach with a toothbrush.
Don’t ignore denture issues: If you are experiencing issues with your dentures, such as poor fit, pain or swelling around your gums, be sure to consult your dentist as soon as possible. Some denture issues could lead to infection. Clean your dentures daily with a toothbrush and running water; a soak in denture cleaner can help as well.
Be aware of effects of medications on your mouth: Saliva in the mouth acts to rinse away bacteria and food debris that causes cavities. Some medications can dry out your mouth, leading to an increase in cavities. Decreased saliva can also make wearing dentures uncomfortable. Drink lots of water (not sugary beverages) to replenish the moisture in the mouth.
Stop smoking and drink alcohol in moderation, if at all: The best thing you can do for your oral health, and overall health, is to stop smoking and drink in moderation, if at all. Smoking and excessive alcohol intake are leading causes of throat and lung cancers.
Visit the dentist regularly: Visiting the dentist at least twice a year is a must for maintaining good oral health. Your dentist should perform an oral cancer exam each time you visit. If you are experiencing any abnormal symptoms, bring a list of your concerns to your visit. Remember, good oral health is linked to good overall health—visiting your dentist is the first step to a better quality of life.
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