Good dental care is essential at any age—but particularly for seniors. A healthy mouth can make eating much easier, and it may even forgo the need for dentures or replacement dental work. And oral health is more connected to overall health than you might think.
The American Dental Association lists dental disease as a leading cause of emergency and medical visits in the senior population. Not only does poor oral health lead to cavities, but it has also been linked to diabetes, heart disease, cancer, and respiratory illness. Learn more about the most pressing oral health risks for seniors in the sections below.
Untreated tooth decay can wreak havoc on aging mouths. Recent studies show that 93 percent of seniors aged 65 and older have cavities, and 18 percent are untreated. As cavities grow, they lead to root damage, infection, and even tooth loss.
Untreated cavities could put you at risk for tooth loss. Seniors aged 65 and older have an average of nine decayed or missing teeth. Once seniors reach the 75 and older age bracket, complete tooth loss is much more common.
As many as two in three adults aged 65 and older have periodontal disease. As a result, many seniors suffer from receding gums, bad breath, dry mouth, and tooth loss. Gum disease can also cause additional health complications in old age, as it is a risk factor for heart and respiratory diseases.
Oral cancer is a significant oral health risk for seniors aged 62 and up. This includes lip cancer, gum cancer, cheek cancer, and throat cancer. Of course, nicotine use often leads to oral cancer. If you are still smoking in your senior years, now is the time to quit!
It’s no surprise that someone in their sixties will take more medication than someone in their twenties, but many medications come with harmful side effects for oral health. For example, any medication that decreases saliva production can lead to a dry mouth. Dry mouth puts seniors at risk for cavities, decay, plaque buildup, and gum disease.
Tips for better senior oral health
Rising medical costs, decreased mobility, and fewer transportation options can make it challenging to keep your mouth healthy. Thankfully, there are some great ways to boost oral health right at home. See below for a few easy, straightforward tips on at-home dental care.
- Brushing twice a day with fluoride toothpaste. Limited mobility may make brushing difficult or painful. If so, try transitioning to a soft-bristled electric toothbrush to ease the strain on your arms and shoulders.
- Flossing daily. This is another one that may be tricky if you have difficulty moving your neck, shoulders, and arms. Your dentist can recommend flossing tools to make this easier.
- Making sure dentures are clean. Food particles can settle into dentures throughout the day. As a result, they create the perfect environment for bacterial growth and gum disease. Dentures should be deep-cleaned and removed at night to prevent bacterial buildup.
Of course, the best way to maintain good oral health at any age is to keep up with regularly scheduled dentist visits. Call Blue Island Smiles today to schedule your next appointment! We’ll be happy to help design the best at-home oral hygiene routine to keep your mouth healthy throughout your senior years.