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Top 3 Oral Health Risks for Seniors

By Jill Hamilton on July 18, 2013 in Dental Health

Couple walking on a bridge

As we age, caring for our bodies becomes a priority and oral health often takes a back seat. We hope seniors reverse this trend because as you age, your oral health risk increases.

Here are three of the most common problems and how to help the seniors in your life avoid them.

1. Cavities. Tooth decay is a very common chronic disease in people over the age of 65 years. The risk for tooth decay can increase as root surfaces become exposed and dry mouth takes away the protective benefits of saliva. In addition, many older adults don't go to the dentist as often as they used to, so cavities sometimes go untreated for longer than they should. Keeping regular dentist appointments is the key to getting cavities treated in a timely manner.

2. Dry mouth. Many seniors are on multiple medications for a variety of chronic illnesses or conditions. A surprising number of medications cause dry mouth, even simple ones such as decongestants. Dry mouth is more than just a minor inconvenience – as its name indicates, the condition deprives the mouth of saliva, which plays a critical role in preventing tooth decay. To help counter this, stay hydrated and limit intake of caffeine and alcohol. Check with your physician or dentist if you think that your medications are causing your mouth to feel dry.

3. Gum Disease. Gum disease affects people of all ages, but it typically becomes worse with increased age. Proper brushing and flossing can prevent gum disease. Seniors having trouble gripping a standard toothbrush should ask their dentist about modifying a handle for easier use. You may also want to consider a battery-powered toothbrush.

Seniors concerned about their oral health should maintain the same good habits they always have:

• Brush twice a day
• Floss daily
• Drink fluoridated water
• Use fluoridated toothpaste
• Avoid tobacco products
• Eat a healthy diet with less sweets and sugary drinks
• Keep regular appointments with the dentist.

If there's anything on this checklist that isn’t part of your oral health routine, it's never too late to start!