How to help older adults maintain good oral health

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In the past, older adults experienced tooth loss much sooner than our present generation of seniors. As a result, they replaced their missing teeth with dentures at an earlier age. While today’s older adults enjoy better overall oral health and tooth retention than those in the past, with this improvement new complications have arisen.

Just because an older adult manages to retain more teeth into old age, it doesn’t mean that those teeth are problem free. It could actually be the opposite. Those who have moved on from the experience of losing all their teeth, usually have a far simpler oral care routine with a reduced risk of oral infection.

Older adults with high tooth retention may experience more complex oral issues

On the other hand, older adults with greater tooth retention have a more complex task with maintaining the health of teeth and gums that are more vulnerable to decay; preventing or managing gum disease; and dealing with the impact of poor oral health on their general health and lifestyle.

If you are a carer or family member caring and/or monitoring an older adult in their day-to-day life, you can help them with the following tips to help them maintain good oral health.

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Tips for helping older adults to maintain good oral health:

  • Ensure a soft ergonomic manual or electric toothbrush is used correctly.
  • Ensure teeth and/or dentures and tongue are cleaned twice daily – morning and night.
  • Use fluoride toothpaste and mouth rinses to help strengthen and protect teeth.
  • Drink tap water throughout the day when thirsty. Tap water has fluoride added to help protect teeth from decay. If their mouth is too dry, ensure they sip water to keep it hydrated. A dry mouth can lead to tooth decay.
  • Avoid medications that can cause dry mouth and those with added sugar. Check for alternative options with their doctor.
  • Ensure healthy and nutritious food options are selected and eaten. Limit or avoid refined food and drinks with added sugars.
  • Ensure dentures are cleaned and rinsed to remove food residue and plaque after every meal. Dentures are prone to developing fungal infections.
  • Ensure oral health checks by dentists occur at intervals that correspond with their oral health needs, and take older adults to a dentist promptly if acute oral issues arise.