Believe it or not dentures do not have to be a fact of life when you age. With proper oral hygiene, many seniors are keeping their natural teeth longer. A healthy mouth is very important for maintaining a great quality of life, especially for seniors. For those wearing dentures, it is still very important to have a clean mouth and to get those regular check-ups at the dentist to prevent oral health problems. April is National Oral Health Month, here is some helpful information to help you take care of those pearly whites.
The Impact on Oral Health
Oral health is a very important part of your overall health. Many people don’t know that there is growing evidence linking gum disease to a variety of serious health conditions including heart disease, stroke and respiratory disorders. Diabetes and oral health are also connected. Gum disease may worsen existing diabetes or even increase complications associated with diabetes.
Causes and Risks
Two types of decay or cavities are common in adults: root decay and decay at the edges of fillings. Cavities in older adults appear most frequently on the roots of the teeth at the gum line. Years of brushing too hard, not flossing and the natural effects of aging can cause gums to recede and expose roots of your the teeth. It’s the roots that are more vulnerable to decay because they are not protected by enamel. Decreasing food and beverages high in sugar will help to reduce cavities. Decay is caused by bacteria (plaque), which should be removed thoroughly every day by brushing and flossing.
Did you know that gum disease is one of the most common diseases in humans? Over time, a buildup of bacteria (plaque) on the teeth can cause inflammation of the gums that can spread to the underlying bone and lead to loss of teeth. Swollen bleeding gums, loose or shifted teeth, bad breath and gum recession are signs of gum disease. It’s very important to keep teeth and gums as plaque free as possible with daily brushing and flossing and professional cleanings 2 times a year.
Dry mouth occurs when there is a decrease in saliva flow. There are a number of causes of causes including a side effect of many medications. Dry mouth can lead to an increase in decay and gum disease. It can also affect chewing, speaking, swallowing and even the ability to taste. Sipping water throughout the day, chewing sugarless gum, sucking on sugarless mints or using over the counter oral lubricants can all help to relieve dry mouth. Regular professional cleanings, proper diet and a diligent home oral care program are recommended to reduce the risk of cavities and gum disease.
Prevention and Maintenance
Dentists are your Friend
Discuss changes in health and any oral care concerns with a your dentist. They will conduct a comprehensive oral evaluation and develop a customized care program to help keep your mouth healthy. Keeping track of medications and changes in diet will help your dental professional assess conditions and determine appropriate treatment.
At any age, proper nutrition is important for your overall health, but it is also extremely important to your oral health too. Eating a healthy diet is your first step in taking care of your whole self.
Daily hygiene — Brush! Floss! Rinse!
- Brush: natural teeth twice a day with an extra soft toothbrush and fluoridated toothpaste. Hold the toothbrush at a 45 degree angle to the teeth and clean using a small circular motion. Brush gently. Brush both the inside and outside of the top and bottom teeth as well as the chewing surfaces. Be sure to pay special attention to teeth that support a partial denture in order to remove accumulated plaque. It is also important to brush the tongue, gums and the roof of your mouth. This will tone gum tissue and remove bacteria.
Special Tip: A power toothbrush has a wide handle and may be easier to grasp for a more thorough cleaning. There are many on the market. Ask your dentist what the best option is for you.
- Floss: once a day before bed to clean between teeth where your tooth brush can’t reach. For those who have difficulty with traditional flossing one-handled flossers are available. A dentist may recommend other products to clean larger spaces between the teeth or to massage gums, such as a rubber tip stimulator, wooden dental picks or small brushes. Be sure to talk to your dentist about the right routine and products for you.
- Rinse: Using a fluoridated mouth rinse will decrease cavity susceptibility, use twice daily. Talk to your dentist before using to find out which is best suited for you.
Dental hygiene visits
Are you seeing your dentist twice a year? It’s not too late to start. Dental hygiene visits and professional teeth cleaning will help your mouth feel clean and fresh and keep you smiling.
Proper care of dentures can extend their life and help keep your mouth healthy. The average life span of dentures is about five to seven years. However, they may need to be realigned or replaced as your mouth changes over time. Be sure to see your dentist regularly to keep on top of these adjustments.
- Dentures, full and partial, collect food and plaque and need to be cleaned twice daily. Commercial denture cleaning solutions do not replace the need to brush. Dentures should be brushed thoroughly to loosen food debris and reduce odours.
- Dentures should be brushed thoroughly twice a day using warm water and mild soap or denture paste.
- Brushing over a sink partially filled with water and lined with a washcloth will help to prevent breakage in the event the denture is accidentally dropped.
- Do not use toothpaste or cleansers that can scratch your dentures, and never use bleach to clean or soak them this can them to discolour or even weaken them.
- When not wearing your dentures soak them in water or a denture cleaning solution to prevent drying.
- After soaking always be sure to rinse your dentures in warm water.
- Denture cleansers may be toxic if ingested. They should not be gargled or swallowed.
Dental implants are a popular and successful alternative for replacing missing teeth. They are special titanium posts that fuse directly to the bone and, unlike some procedures, do not destroy other teeth. An implant is treated like a natural tooth but is not as strong, so it is important to brush and floss gently. As the trend toward implants escalates, so too does the specialized knowledge required by the dentist to advise clients before, during and after choosing implants.
Oral cancer screening
Your dentist will perform regular screenings for oral cancer. However, between visits, you should check your mouth for changes. Watch for red or white patches, sores that do not heal after a few days, swelling or changes in colour of the tissue. Be sure to also check your lips, all areas of the tongue, gums, palate, floor of the mouth and inside your cheeks. Contact your oral professional right away if you have any concerns.
It’s never too late to take care of your smile. If you don’t already have a daily oral routine, making some simple changes to your lifestyle and seeing a dentist regularly will go a long way in keeping you healthy. If you are need of a dentist ask a family member or a friend for a recommendation, you can also talk to your pharmacist or doctor to help you find one close to you.