The Importance of Dental Hygiene for Seniors

Dentist with senior woman

The Importance of Dental Hygiene for Seniors

Sometimes, maintaining our dental hygiene can feel like a tedious chore. Our mouths don’t come into contact with nearly as many strange surfaces as our hands, so is it really such a bad thing to push off one’s dental care? The answer is a resounding “yes—” poor oral care has a far more substantial impact than just bad breath.

The importance of dental hygiene for seniors, in particular, can’t be understated. Each of our bodily functions is connected to one another. When one is poorly maintained, it can have a ripple effect on your overall health. The same goes for your dental care. Healthy teeth not only help you enjoy your food, but avoid health issues.

The Importance of Dental Hygiene for Seniors

Poor dental hygiene can lead to these problems

Your dental hygiene can cause a number of health concerns, both oral and not alike. A few of the most common issues include:

  • Tooth decay. Brushing and flossing help clean your teeth of plaque, which is a film that causes harm to the enamel and eventually tooth decay (or cavities).
  • Gum disease. According to the CDC, two out of three seniors have gum disease, also primarily caused by a build-up of plaque. This can lead to sore, bleeding gums, chewing problems, and even tooth loss.
  • Tooth loss. As many as one in five older adults have lost all their teeth, which can lead to serious nutritional defects. This problem is usually an extension of the two above issues.
  • Oral cancer. Infections can lead to even more serious problems, such as oral cancer. Tobacco use also puts individuals at a higher risk of developing this condition.
  • Diabetes. Poor blood sugar regulation can lead to issues such as inflammation or gum disease. This is because too much glucose (or sugar) in the saliva helps bacteria grow.
  • Pneumonia. As you breathe, the bacteria in your mouth can travel to your lungs, which can then cause serious illnesses such as pneumonia. Maintaining a good routine of brushing and flossing will help lower your risk of catching this illness.
  • Heart disease. Inflammation of any type can cause problems with your heart. The same goes for inflammation caused by gum disease. This condition can worsen heart conditions and lead to heart disease.

Though not directly responsible for all these conditions, dry mouth is a common issue seniors face that can lead to a myriad of problems. Many medications taken by older adults have a side effect of dry mouth. If you’re experiencing this issue, talk to your doctor about how you can fight it.

Good oral hygiene tips for seniors

A proper dental care routine can make a world of difference to your overall health by cleaning away plaque and germs. Though it’s possible your dentist may have different recommendations for you, on average, it is advised that you brush twice a day for two minutes. You should also floss at night to remove any build-up at the end of the day, but it isn’t a bad idea to do so after your meals. Mouthwash has some great benefits, but remember, it does not replace brushing and flossing.

If you’re worried about forgetting to keep up with this habit, make it easier by doing it at the same time every day. For instance, brush your teeth after breakfast, and then brush and floss right before you go to bed. This way, the habit will become second nature to you.

As a senior, certain dental hygiene practices may be a little challenging—such as flossing with traditional string. Thankfully, there are plenty of options to help keep your mouth clean, such as dental picks or waterpiks, which use water to get to hard-to-reach spots

Even if you have a perfect dental routine, it is still important to have regular dentist visits. The number of visits may vary based on your needs, but it is often recommended to go twice a year. They can detect any potential issues early on and bring you solutions.

Dental health is crucial to senior health

Call your dentist if you notice any of these problems

Though you may do everything right, dental health issues may still arise. If you’re between appointments and notice these changes that persist for more than two weeks, make an appointment with your dentist.

  • An uncomfortable/sore spot in your mouth, lip, or throat
  • A lump/thick area in your mouth, lip, or throat
  • A white or red patch in your mouth
  • Numbness in your mouth/tongue
  • Swelling in your jaw
  • Pain in an ear without hearing loss
  • Trouble chewing, swallowing, or just trouble moving your jaw

Support from an at-home caregiver

If maintaining good health habits isn’t as easy as it used to be, don’t allow it to be to the detriment of your health. Allow an at-home caregiver to help you. These professionals can assist with any non-medical activities of daily living you need support with, from personal care to companionship.

If you think you would benefit from the support of an at-home caregiver, Home Care Powered by AUAF can help. Give us a call at 773-274-9262 to learn more about our program.

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