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Dental Tips For Older Adults

Adult teeth are not that much different from younger teeth. Dental care is very much the same. Adults and younger people both have to maintain daily oral health with regular visits to the dentist. Older adults, however, face challenges that younger adults do not. For instance, caring for dentures and holding a toothbrush are not typically issues younger adults have to be concerned with. But as we age, our ability to care for ourselves can have an impact on our oral health. Here are a few tips on caring for your dentures, maintaining good oral health and, if you are a caregiver or someone that aids in daily care for an older adult, a few tips to help make the process a little easier.

Caring for dentures is similar to caring for natural teeth. Dentures should be brushed daily in order to help prevent staining. Brushing your entire mouth, with a soft bristled brush, will help to remove bacteria. This includes your gums, tongue, and the roof of your mouth (palate). Regular dental visits will also help to maintain good oral health.

Here are a few extra tips to maintain a healthy mouth and to keep your dentures in tip-top shape:

  • When removing dentures, stand over a towel or a sink of water. This will help to prevent the dentures from breaking incase they fall.
  • To store dentures overnight, it is recommended to use lukewarm water (never hot water) or denture cleaning liquid. Dentures should not dry out.
  • Use a soft bristled toothbrush to avoid damaging the dentures. Do not use household cleaners or bleach, as these products are not safe for your body and they will damage the surface of the dentures.
  • Before you place your dentures in your mouth make sure to examine your gums. If you notice red, swollen gums it is best to let them heal before wearing your dentures. If these symptoms persist call your dentist.
  • If you notice white patches on the inside of your cheeks this could indicate poorly fitting dentures.
  • As we get older it takes longer for our mouth to heal. It is recommended to give your mouth a break from wearing dentures-about 6 hours a day.
  • Wearing dentures daily “wears them out.” Replacing your dentures every 5 years will help keep your mouth healthy and dentures in tip-top shape.

Holding a toothbrush can be painful and difficult for an older adult, especially if there is arthritis in the hands and fingers. Here are a few ways to help with this discomfort and to aid in daily brushing:

  • For easier grasp, try making the toothbrush handle larger. You can wrap a sponge around it, use elastic bandage or tape to make it a bit easier to hold and use. Wrapping popsicle sticks around the toothbrush or pushing the handle through a ball of soft foam will also help to enlarge the toothbrush and help with discomfort.
  • Using an electric toothbrush will help with the momentum and movement while brushing your teeth or dentures.
  • Additional self-care items include a toothpaste dispenser and floss holders to help with ease of movement and daily use.

Regardless if you have dentures or natural teeth, maintaining a healthy mouth and gums is essential as an older adult for the overall health of the entire body. Normal dental care should include:

  • Brushing your teeth twice a day (morning and night) and daily flossing. Older adults can experience plaque build up very quickly.
  • Be aware of signs of gum disease. If you experience bleeding gums while brushing your teeth or eating hard foods like an apple, these could be signs of gum disease and a visit to the dentist is recommended.
  • Keep your dentist up-to-date regarding your medications and health issues. Medications can cause changes in saliva that can cause tooth loss as well. Many medications such as heart, blood pressure and antidepressants can cause significant changes to salivary flow and can have detrimental effects on natural teeth if daily care is not meticulous. Communication is key to receiving appropriate dental care.
  • Regular dental visits will help to maintain a healthy mouth.
  • Eating whole grains, fresh fruits and vegetables are important to maintain healthy gums and avoid tooth decay.
  • Using tobacco products can affect your dental health and overall health.
  • Many older adults have a fixed income and believe they cannot afford dental care. Most communities offer dental assistance/aid for older adults that need additional support and resources. Consider contacting your local social services office or public health center for more information.

Young adults and older adults have similar dental needs that include daily maintenance and regular visits to your dentist. However, older adults need additional care maintaining the health of their gums, mouth and dentures. If you are an older adult or someone that cares for an older adult, consider using these tips. Whatever your age, you can love your smile and love your life!

Visit http://www.lakeshorefamilydentist.com/library/62/SeniorsandOralHealth.html for more tips on how to care for your smile as you age.

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