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Seniors and Oral Hygiene: What You Need to Know

peter-kasprzyk-110926We rely on our pearly whites every day, but did you know one of the top health challenges seniors face is maintaining our oral hygiene? As we age, our teeth and gums become more susceptible to problems that might not have previously surfaced. Luckily, there are steps we can take to protect our teeth for years to come.

Some common oral hygiene problems among seniors are darkened teeth, difficulty chewing, root decay, dry mouth, and gum disease. To prevent these issues and keep teeth and gums healthy, experts recommend brushing teeth twice a day, plus flossing once a day.

If holding a toothbrush is difficult or painful, ask your dentist for options that cater to your specific needs. Solutions like extending your toothbrush with a tongue depressor, or using a soft washcloth or gauze in place of a traditional tooth brush can make frequent brushing a more manageable task.

Dry mouth, one common oral hygiene problem, is best managed through preventative measures. Since it is often caused by medications, be sure to drink extra water or use sugar-free mints or gum to increase saliva production and moisten your mouth.

And did you know that one of the most important things you can do to protect your teeth is to avoid tobacco products? These products will only increase the likelihood of developing tooth decay and gum disease.

If you have dentures, oral hygiene is just as important. Be sure to clean them regularly, as these appliances can be a breeding ground for harmful bacteria.

It’s essential to visit your dentist as often as he or she recommends – typically, this will be every six months, unless you have a specific issue that needs to be addressed with more frequent care.

According to the American Dental Association’s Mouth Healthy recommendations, when you visit your dentist, make sure to mention what medications you are on, as well any dental issues you’ve been dealing with lately.

During the exam itself, your dentist will likely perform a physical check of your face, neck, bite and jaw, along with your gums and teeth, to comprehensively check for any issues. If you have any questions about your treatment options or your dental insurance plan, don’t be afraid to ask your dentist. There are many different options for senior dental coverage that may cater to your needs. Often times, Medicare Advantage covers regular dental visits, but be sure to check your coverage for more information about your plan.