Just as your dental needs change from childhood to adulthood, they continue to change as you enter older adulthood. Seniors have an increased risk for certain dental problems, such as:
- Dry mouth: As saliva production decreases with age, dry mouth can develop. Dry mouth can also be a side effect of taking certain medications. Though it may not seem like a major problem and only a minor discomfort, having a dry mouth can leave the mouth more prone to infection, decay, and disease.
- Root decay: As gum tissue recedes over time, the tooth roots may become exposed. If left untreated, they are at risk for decay.
- Gum disease: This is where good dental habits in former years pay off. Gum disease is caused by plaque and made worse by poor hygiene; it’s a common condition among older patients. If left unattended, it can progress into advanced periodontitis and lead to severe infections and even tooth loss.
Preventive Dental Care for Seniors
Fortunately, there are steps that seniors can take to help prevent these oral health concerns.
- Just as when you were younger, brushing and flossing are the most important steps you can take in maintaining a healthy mouth. It is still advised to use a toothbrush that contains fluoride, to aid the enamel remaining on the teeth. Brushing should happen at least twice a day and flossing once a day.
- Use an antiseptic mouthwash to kill off bacteria that brushing may have missed.
- Visit the dentist on a regular schedule. While this schedule may once have been simply twice a year for a cleaning and oral exam, you may have to visit the dentist a bit more often as an older adult in order for the doctor to keep a close eye on any dental concerns.