How to Care for Your Smile as You Age

Did you know that your oral health is tied to your overall health, as well as your quality of life? This is especially true as we age.

Common dental issues for older adults include tooth loss, receding gums, movement of teeth, and dry mouth. When combined with reduced mobility or dexterity when holding items, it can become much harder to keep up with good oral health habits like brushing, flossing, and regular visits to a dental office. This means that the older we get, the greater our risk for tooth decay and gum disease.

Dry Mouth Can Be Dangerous to Your Oral Health

Dry mouth (also called xerostomia) is a condition among older adults that occurs when your body doesn’t produce enough saliva. The condition is a common side-effect of many prescribed medications.

Severe dry mouth can cause issues such as food sticking to the teeth, difficulty speaking or swallowing, and even an uncomfortable burning sensation in the mouth.

When it’s difficult to eat, many seniors turn to foods that are high in sugar and refined carbohydrates – breads, cookies, and candies – because they’re easier to eat and prepare, or because they may help with dry mouth symptoms and increase saliva. Unfortunately, these foods can make your teeth even more susceptible to cavities if you also have dry mouth. Limit these foods in your diet, or consider using sugar-free alternatives.

Tooth Brushing is Essential for a Healthy Mouth

The first step to good oral health is daily brushing that includes a soft toothbrush and fluoride toothpaste. Remove plaque from all surfaces of the teeth at least twice daily.

Use a gentle circular brushstroke from the gums to the tips of the teeth and spend a full two minutes to brush all surfaces.  Brushing often and with appropriate products will help create a healthier smile.

Check out our article on Tooth Brushing Tips for Older Adults.

Other Useful Tips

  • Brushing each morning helps the mouth feel fresh, and can even make food taste better. Brush once during the day, preferably after a snack.
  • When brushing before bed, use products that will help to keep your mouth moisturized during the night.
  • Consider using antibacterial toothpastes, which have been shown to reduce plaque and gingivitis.
  • Clean between your teeth each day with dental floss or a floss alternative.

If you have dry mouth, talk to your doctor or dentist about prescription and over-the-counter products that may be helpful.

About the Author

Melanie V. Taverna MS, RDH
Assistant Professor/Clinical Faculty UT Health Science Center at San Antonio

The information on this article is not intended or implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Tooth Wisdom® and Oral Health America do not recommend or endorse any specific dentists, products, procedures, opinions, or other information mentioned. See full Terms & Conditions.

Leave a Comment