Senior Dental Care Tips: Maintaining a Healthy Smile into Your Golden Years

The aging process brings many rewards, including greater freedom in daily routines and more time to enjoy family, friends, and hobbies. The challenge is to stay healthy through it in order to benefit from these rewards, and that includes maintaining good oral health. 

Some factors that must be considered in dental care for seniors are the natural wear that teeth experience, medical conditions, and medications to deal with those conditions. Conscientious oral care and a solid dental routine are imperative to enjoy life to the fullest at this age.

In this article, we will offer some information on common dental issues you may encounter as well as some senior dental care tips to keep in mind. Be proactive in keeping your teeth and gums as healthy as possible in your Golden Years!

Common Dental Issues for Seniors

As people age, several common issues can affect the teeth and gums, including:

In general, the natural aging process results in receding gums, as can years of aggressively brushing the teeth and simply becoming lax in brushing or flossing. 

Poor oral health also happens when arthritis or other medical problems make it difficult for seniors to brush or floss their teeth effectively. Even holding a toothbrush can become a problem. 

Older people often suffer from memory loss and other neurological disorders which means they forget to take care of their teeth and gums. Seniors may appear to be able to care for themselves and will usually not admit (or know) there is a problem.

Seniors can face difficulties chewing and that can lead to poor nutrition and digestive issues. As these issues worsen, the teeth and gums suffer, which then affects the overall health. Read on for proactive tips that can prevent this cycle of poor health. 

Dental Care Tips for Seniors

Here are five tips on how to take care of your teeth as a senior that will significantly contribute to optimal oral health:

#1 – Make a Commitment to Your Oral Health

Awareness and commitment are the keys to taking care of your teeth as a senior. We provide the information and you provide the follow-through regarding twice-daily brushing with fluoride toothpaste, flossing daily, and using mouthwash when necessary to wash away any remaining food particles.

If needed, invest in an electric toothbrush to ensure that you can thoroughly brush your teeth without putting too much stress on your hands. Doing things like this to make your oral hygiene routine easier will increase your chances of staying committed to it.

#2 – Stay on Schedule with Routine Dentist Visits

Use a proactive approach and maintain regular visits to your dentist for check-ups and dental cleaning. Most dentists recommend twice-yearly visits for seniors, simply to provide the best opportunity for early identification of any problems.

At each visit, your dentist will conduct a thorough examination of your teeth and gums and check for any problems like tooth decay or gum disease. The dental cleaning will remove any plaque buildup on your teeth and provide a good time for questions with the hygienist.

#3 – Manage Dry Mouth Effectively

For seniors, a dry mouth (Xerostomia) is more serious than just being annoying. It means your saliva production is lessening as you age. Some medications can cause this problem, too. 

The purpose of saliva is to neutralize acids in the mouth, wash away bits of food, and reduce the overgrowth of bacteria in the mouth. With lower saliva production, your teeth can begin to decay and your mouth can get very dry. To combat this dryness, you can chew sugar-free gum, use an over-the-counter product specially designed for dry mouth, and stay hydrated by drinking water throughout the day.

#4 – Make Good Dietary Choices

Good oral health depends on a balanced diet, especially for older people. Seniors need a diet rich in the nutrients that support their bodies and their teeth. Calcium is necessary to keep the bones, teeth, and gums strong as well as vitamin C that is obtained from fruits and vegetables. Limited sugar intake will also keep the risk of tooth decay and gum disease to a minimum. 

Older people can also protect their oral health by limiting foods and beverages with high acidic content, like sodas and some citrus fruits. These foods and drinks can erode tooth enamel. By making good nutritional choices like these, seniors can protect their gums and teeth and gums as long as possible.

#5 – Understand How Medications Impact Oral Health 

There are hundreds of medications commonly given to older people that can impact your teeth and gums. Here are some things to be aware of:

  • Xerostomia, known commonly as dry mouth, is listed as a side effect of medications given for Alzheimer’s, antidepressants, antipsychotics, blood pressure and heart medications, decongestants, diuretics, and bronchodilators. 
  • Gingival enlargement, marked by the gums becoming swollen and then growing over the teeth, is a side effect of some medications, like those given to control high blood pressure.
  • Some blood pressure control medications have been linked to oral sores and inflammation.
  • A number of medications ranging from some antibiotics to ibuprofen can produce lesions or ulcers in the mouth.
  • Medications with high sugar content, like cough drops, liquid medications, and antacid tablets leave behind a sticky coating on teeth, making them more susceptible to decay. This often affects older people who can no longer swallow pills. 
  • Drugs affecting the central nervous system can affect oral health. When seniors complain about fatigue, lethargy, and motor impairment, the symptoms may be side effects of antidepressants and antihypertensive medications. These patients are then more likely to have higher levels of plaque and gum problems due to reduced effort put into oral hygiene.

It is important to periodically discuss your medications with not only your primary care doctor but your dentist as well. 

Help for Seniors to Protect and Optimize Oral Health

The Golden Years offer many rewards for senior citizens, but there are also unique challenges as you seek to protect your oral health as well as your overall health during this time. Optimal senior dental care is a critical part of maintaining your overall well-being. Discussions with both your primary care doctor and dentist are also important in order to keep tabs on medications, diet, checkups, and decreasing abilities that are common in the older population.

Our expert dental team here at TLC Dental Center is ready to help you make sure your teeth and gums stay as healthy as possible, even as you age. We understand the challenges seniors face and will help in any way we can. Contact us today to schedule an appointment!