4 tips for maintaining oral health in older adults

For many adults, getting older means they may be faced with unfamiliar oral health concerns, but it doesn’t mean you have to deal with more oral health issues. And losing teeth doesn’t need to be an expected part of aging. Here are four tips to help prevent some of the most common oral health problems in older adults.

Drink water to prevent cavities

One simple lifestyle change that can help prevent cavities and other oral health problems is to drink more water. Not only is water sugar-free, but it can also help keep your teeth clean.

Dehydration can cause your salivary glands to reduce or stop producing saliva. Your mouth relies on saliva to help wash away harmful bacteria. Without enough of it, plaque gets to stick around longer, which can lead to cavities, mouth sores, bad breath, and gum disease.

If your mouth continues to feel dry after increasing your water intake, it may be caused by prescriptions, disease, or cancer treatments. Talk to your dentist and your doctor. They will help you determine the cause of dry mouth. Once you find the cause, special toothpaste, rinses, and sprays can be recommended, as well as medication changes.

Brush and floss daily to prevent gum disease

Gum disease affects two out of three adults aged 65 and older in the United States. In mild cases gums can become inflamed, swollen, and irritated. This is called gingivitis. The irritated gum tissue begins to pull away from the tooth, and the worse it gets, the less secure your teeth are. Advanced gum disease is called periodontitis. It can lead to bone and tissue loss, as well as tooth loss. As it progresses, teeth may start to feel loose or move around in the mouth.

Ongoing studies show that people with gum disease are more likely to have heart attacks, strokes, or other serious health events.

To prevent and treat gum disease, it’s important to brush your teeth twice daily and floss once daily. It’s also important to see your dentist regularly for preventive cleanings.

Quit tobacco and limit alcohol to prevent oral cancer

According to the American Cancer Society, tobacco and excessive alcohol use are the strongest risk factors for oral cancer. Quitting tobacco products and cutting down on alcohol consumption can help reduce your risk of developing the disease.

Oral cancer can affect your gums, tongue, lips, teeth, throat, tonsils, and other soft tissues in the mouth. In the United States the average age of a person diagnosed with oral cancer is 64.

If you need help quitting tobacco, there are local resources available to support you right now.

Older adults need dental insurance

Investing in dental insurance is a good way to take care of your oral health as an older adult. If you don’t have coverage through an employer, there are other affordable options available such as individual plans. Dental insurance makes it easy to see dentists for preventive check-ups and can help cover some of the costs for procedures you may need as you age.

The right dental plan is key to maintaining oral health in older adults. Contact us to learn more about the specifics of your coverage or to help you find the right plan for you.