Thanks to advances in dental care and improved oral hygiene habits, a record number of senior citizens – almost 75% – are keeping all or some of their natural teeth. Oral health is so important for those of us over 60, not only for our smile’s sake, but for preventing chronic health conditions like heart disease and Type 2 diabetes. Here are our top five recommendations we offer our senior patients for maintaining excellent oral health:
- Brush with fluoride toothpaste twice a day, and floss thoroughly once a day to clear debris – whether you have dentures or not. If dexterity is an issue, an electric toothbrush can be easier to operate.
- Stick to regular dental check-ups, no matter what insurance coverage you have. The cost of prevention is slight compared to the significant out-of-pocket potential expense of lost teeth, advanced gum disease, oral cancer, and other possible results of dental neglect.
- Pack your diet with whole grains, fruits, vegetables, low-fat dairy products, and lean proteins like turkey and fish. Limit intake of starchy snacks, sugared candy, and sugary drinks – and when you do indulge, make sure to brush your teeth right afterwards, or at least rinse your mouth out thoroughly.
- If you’re on a medication causing dry mouth symptoms (a major cause of tooth decay and gum disease), ask your physician if adjustments can be made. Otherwise, limit your intake of caffeinated drinks, alcohol, acidic juices, and soda (all cause dry mouth); don’t smoke; avoid mouthwashes unless they’re designed for dry mouth; drink water frequently, and chew sugar-free gum to help stimulate saliva.
- Check your mouth regularly for sores; if you notice any lumps or bumps that stick around for two weeks, see your dentist promptly.
We know lack of insurance coverage can pose a big challenge for many seniors on fixed incomes; click here for some great free or low-cost dental care options for those over 60.