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Teeth Cleaning for Seniors: Addressing Unique Oral Health Challenges as We Age

Satisfied senior man looking his teeth in a mirror after dental procedure at dentist's office.

Your body changes as you age, and your mouth is no exception. Older adults have special oral health concerns that require extra attention. Maintaining good oral hygiene, including scheduling routine teeth cleaning appointments, becomes increasingly important.

Unfortunately, senior oral health care doesn’t receive the necessary attention. From age-related dental problems to the importance of individual dental care, understanding the oral health needs of the aging population is crucial for overall health and enhancing quality of life.

Understanding How Aging Impacts Oral Health

Aging affects oral health in numerous ways, leading to specific challenges. Some changes you may experience as you grow older include:

  • Dry mouth (Xerostomia)
  • Darkened teeth
  • Gum recession
  • Tooth (enamel) wear
  • Tooth decay
  • Tooth sensitivity
  • Tooth loss
  • Uneven jawbone
  • Changes in taste

Some people must also manage conditions like arthritis, which decreases their manual dexterity. The limited capability to move your hands makes it more challenging to hold a toothbrush or floss, thus hindering your ability to practice good oral hygiene.

As you get older, your tongue doesn’t work as well as it used to. This makes it tough for some people to chew food and move it around in their mouths. When this happens, you might end up swallowing food that hasn’t been properly chewed, which can cause problems with your digestion.

Causes of These Changes to Your Oral Health

Although many factors contribute to changes in oral health, there are a few common causes.

Medical Conditions and Medications

Many older patients have underlying age-related medical conditions, like diabetes and osteoporosis. These conditions can significantly impact oral health and weaken the immune system. Diabetes, for example, raises the risk of gum disease, while osteoporosis can contribute to bone loss in the jaw.

Medications for these and other conditions can also affect oral health. The average senior adult has at least one prescription medication. Some drugs cause dry mouth, leading to tooth decay, gum disease, and other dental issues.

Lifestyle Factors

Choosing to smoke or drink too much alcohol can worsen oral health issues, too. These habits can increase your chances of developing cavities, gum disease, and oral cancer. They also slow the healing after dental treatment and can impact your chances of a successful dental implant procedure.

Recommendations for Keeping Your Aging Teeth in Top Shape

Oral health is always important. If you follow these tips, you have a higher chance of maintaining oral health as you age.

Schedule Routine Teeth Cleaning Visits

Routine dental visits are crucial for early detection and treatment of dental issues. Your dentist will recommend the frequency of visits for teeth cleaning and examination. This preventive care will help you maintain your oral health and intervene with problems before they become too extensive.

Tell the dental team about any changes in your medical conditions or medication. This information can alter the treatment and ensure you get the best care.

Keep Up With a Home Oral Hygiene Routine

Brushing twice daily with fluoride toothpaste helps remove plaque and prevent tooth decay. If you use a soft-bristled brush, you can reduce the chances of further enamel erosion. Additionally, flossing once or using interdental brushing cleans the remainder of the tooth that the toothbrush cannot reach, ensuring your entire mouth is cleaned.

The key to these two practices is consistency. Occasionally, skipping a day might not make a big difference. However, creating a routine and sticking to it will help prevent tooth decay.

Denture Care

Proper denture care is vital to maintaining good oral health. Neglecting them can build up plaque and bacteria, causing sores and oral infections.

Regularly clean dentures using a soft-bristled brush and a non-abrasive denture cleaner. Remove them at night to allow your gums to breathe. Although you won’t need a teeth cleaning, routine check-ups are still necessary to ensure your dentures fit properly.

Well-Balanced Diet and Staying Hydrated

Eating nutrient-rich foods supports oral health in seniors. Calcium, vitamin D, and minerals all play vital roles in protecting your smile. Avoiding sugary and acidic foods and beverages is also a good idea to reduce the risk of enamel erosion and tooth decay.

A dry mouth can cause many problems. However, frequently drinking water can combat the problem. Major retail stores carry over-the-counter saliva substitutes that help keep your mouth moist.

Schedule Your Senior Dental Care

Dental exams are vital to detecting early signs of dental problems as you age. You may benefit from more frequent visits, depending on your individual needs.

If you need a team experienced in providing senior dental care, contact Dental Implant and Aesthetic Specialists. Dr. Brett Langson, DMD, and his team will determine the best care to maintain your oral health. Call us today.