It’s true that the best time to begin practicing good oral hygiene is during childhood. After all, it can help to build a solid foundation for the overall health of your teeth and gums for many years to come, well into your adulthood. However, dental health is extremely important at all stages of life. It is especially crucial for older adults to maintain good oral hygiene because they are prone to a number of health problems that can come about as a result of poor oral hygiene.
Potential Health Problems Stemming from Poor Oral Hygiene
Certain health problems can stem from poor oral hygiene, especially as you age. These include:
- Respiratory Infection: Respiratory infections, including pneumonia, can develop in individuals who have diminished lung capacity. Older adults are at greater risk in general, but when there is a buildup of bacteria in the mouth, it can travel to the lungs and lead to infection.
- Diabetic Complications: Many older adults suffer from diabetes. Individuals with diabetes are at greater risk for gum disease because of their poor blood circulation. It’s also more difficult to control blood sugar levels, which can lead to complications.
- Cardiovascular Disease: Poor oral hygiene can lead to bacteria traveling into the bloodstream. This can result in hardening of the arteries and a decrease in blood flow or in oxygen getting to the heart, which can lead to a heart attack or stroke.
Importance of Good Oral Hygiene
In general, as you age, your teeth are at higher risk for problems. Poor oral hygiene can lead to deterioration of the gums and teeth and buildup of bacteria that can result in the development of gum diseases such as gingivitis and periodontitis. Gum disease can lead to a loss of bone in the jaw and tooth loss. Gum disease is a dental problem that can occur in any age group of adults, but adults 75 years and older face a greater risk of tooth loss because the recession of the gums is more conducive to the buildup of plaque.
Tips for Elderly Adults to Maintain Good Oral Health
There is a direct correlation between oral health and other health conditions. Older adults face a greater risk for these conditions because they are more vulnerable, with their immune systems not being as strong as that of younger individuals. Therefore, it is especially important for older adults to maintain good oral health. These are some things you must do to ensure the best health of your teeth and gums:
1. Daily Cleaning:
Brushing and flossing on a daily basis should be done throughout your lifetime. When you brush your teeth twice per day, you are fighting against bacteria buildup. Floss once each day as well. It can help to fight gum diseases and tooth decay. Using a fluoride toothpaste will help to keep your teeth stronger and healthier.
2. Denture Cleaning:
If you have dentures, it’s essential to keep them clean just as you clean your natural teeth. However, you must use a cleanser specifically meant for dentures. Soaking them overnight in that cleanser and scrubbing them with a soft bristled toothbrush can keep them clean and free of bacteria. Avoid using toothpaste because it is too abrasive and can damage your dentures.
3. Regular Dental Checkups:
It’s important to keep up with your regular dental checkups as you age. You should see your dentist once every six months or annually to ensure that you get regular routine cleanings and X-rays to determine whether you have gum disease or a problem with your teeth. Be sure to let your dentist know what medications you’re taking and of health issues that might have developed since your last appointment.
4. Combatting Dry Mouth:
Dry mouth is a condition that can develop when you take certain medications. It can lead to dental problems like tooth decay and your dentures irritating your mouth. If you suffer from dry mouth, you can combat the problem by using a moisturising mouthwash on a daily basis. You can also get other products to keep your mouth moist, such as gums or sprays, but it’s wise to discuss this with your dentist to ensure that you get the best product for you.
5. Diet and Lifestyle:
To keep your mouth healthy, you have to maintain a healthy diet that is rich in fresh fruits and vegetables as well as whole grains and lean proteins. You should also drink at least six eight-ounce glasses of water per day. Water contains fluoride, which can strengthen your teeth and keep your body well hydrated as well. If you smoke or use chewing tobacco, it is not only bad for your teeth but bad for your health in general. The best thing you can do is to quit.
Talk with your dentist about options that can help you quit smoking and help you improve your oral health.
The best way to ensure your overall health as you age is to ensure proper oral hygiene. The better you care for your oral health, the better your health will be in general.
ABOUT THE EXPERT
Dr. Nick, principal dentist at Terrigal Beach Dental, Australia’s specialised dental practice located in the heart of beautiful Terrigal. At Terrigal Beach Dental, we offer a relaxed modern environment and abide by the highest sterilisation and hygiene standards. Our experienced team of friendly dentists work with state-of- the-art equipment and the latest technology to look after all your dental needs – gently, carefully and professionally.