As you get older, your health needs change. This is as true for your dental health as it is for the rest of your body. In the past, it was common for senior citizens to lose some or all of their teeth, but these days, there's no reason for you to fear losing your teeth if you take proper care of them. Take a look at some of the most important oral health care tips for seniors.
Take Steps to Deal With Dry Mouth
It's common for seniors to experience dry mouth. There's no one cause for it – sometimes it's caused by hormonal changes, sometimes it's a side effect of medication, sometimes it's a symptom of a medical condition like diabetes. The important thing for you to know is that it isn't a normal and unavoidable part of aging. Dry mouth can be treated.
Why should you worry about dry mouth? It's more than just an annoying symptom. The saliva in your mouth serves an important function by helping to wash away bacteria-causing cavities in your mouth. If you don't have enough saliva, you're more likely to develop cavities.
Dry mouth can be treated; you just have to isolate the cause of it first. Discussing the problem with your dentist and doctor can help. You may be able to change medications or get help balancing your hormones, or you may just need to up your water intake in order to stay properly hydrated.
Get Screened for Oral Cancer
Don't make the mistake of thinking that you don't need dental checkups as frequently now that you're older. Not only do you still need regular exams and cleanings, you also need regular oral cancer screenings. Even if you don't smoke or drink alcohol (two major risk factors for oral cancer) your age alone puts you at increased risk of developing the disease.
Oral cancer is most survivable when it's caught early. If it's caught before the cancer spreads, the 5-year survival rate is over 80%. Once it spreads beyond the nearby lymph nodes and into other parts of the body, the survival rate drops to less than 40%. Regular oral cancer screenings ensure that if you do develop the disease, it can be treated early.
Beware of Gingivitis
The effects of gum disease go far beyond your mouth. Gum disease is linked to other serious health conditions like heart disease, stroke, and diabetes. Avoiding gum disease can help you avoid these medical problems.
Gum disease is caused by infections that occur because of plaque buildup on the teeth. Cleaning your teeth thoroughly can help you avoid this plaque buildup. If you have difficulty brushing or flossing because of arthritis or another mobility issue, you may need to make some changes to your tooth cleaning tools. For example, there are large-handled toothbrushes made for people with arthritic hands. Disposable handheld flossers might be easier for you to manage than long strings of dental floss.
Make sure that you keep your dentist apprised of changes in your health status or new medications you may be taking. This information can help the dentist anticipate dental problems that you may develop so they can give you strategies to avoid them.
For more tips on dental care during your senior years, talk to a dentist at offices like The Downtown Dental Clinic.