Good oral health plays a key role in seniors' overall well-being. Studies have linked it to reduced risk of heart disease and stroke. Research also suggests that individuals with strong teeth are more likely to consume a diverse diet containing fruits and vegetables, which helps boost their nutritional intake with vitamins and minerals crucial to physical and mental wellness.
The benefits of good oral health are fairly simple for seniors to obtain. Plus, there's a wide variety of products on the market purposely designed to ease the process.
Dentists recommend brushing teeth twice daily for 2 minutes to remove food particles and plaque-causing bacteria.
As seniors age, holding thin toothbrushes and maneuvering the bristles over every tooth can become difficult due to reduced mobility or arthritis pain.
An electronic toothbrush with an ergonomic handle can help overcome these situations. Many brands also feature a built-in 2-minute timer to encourage a thorough cleaning. Some even have additional timers to ensure each section of the mouth is cleaned equally, such as the Philips Sonicare 4100.
Mouth rinses are useful to include in a senior's oral hygiene supplies. The liquid can easily reach areas not accessible to a toothbrush, washing away some food particles and bacteria that might otherwise be missed.
Many seniors are diagnosed with dry mouth. A common senior health myth is that experiencing dry mouth is a natural part of aging. While this isn't true, many seniors take medications or have medical issues known to cause dry mouth as a side effect.
Therapeutic mouthwashes, including CloSYS Silver Multi-Benefit Fluoride Mouthwash, can help reduce the symptoms of dry mouth and other oral issues, including plaque, bad breath and dental pain. For the best results, seniors should check product labels for the American Dental Association's seal of approval.
Most dentists suggest flossing before brushing, which helps clean teeth more thoroughly. Flossing with waxed floss is a tried-and-true method of improving oral health. Disadvantages to using traditional floss for some seniors include the string being hard to hold and potentially damaging sensitive gums.
Many flosser products, including floss picks and threaders, feature ergonomic handles to reduce discomfort and enhance grip. Water flossers can also improve comfort by gently cleaning between teeth without harming gum tissue.
Toothpaste is the go-to ingredient in dental hygiene kits. Not every type is equal, raising the importance of choosing the best kind based on individual circumstances.
Seniors experiencing discomfort in their teeth and gums may benefit from toothpaste formulated to reduce sensitivity and combat gingivitis, the most common form of gum disease.
Certain foods, drinks and medications can cause staining on teeth. A whitening toothpaste can help brighten teeth and remove unwanted marks. Seniors may also wish to use fluoride-based toothpaste to strengthen the enamel coating on their teeth and reduce the risk of cavities.
Just like the natural teeth they mimic, dentures can become covered in stains, food particles and plaque. In addition to brushing them regularly, seniors can use dental appliance cleansers to remove bacteria and prevent infections.
Nearly all brands of denture cleansers kill bacteria and germs. However, seniors may want to opt for an anti-fungal cleanser when dealing with thrush, denture stomatitis and angular cheilitis, such as OAP foam cleaner.
Seniors who dislike the flavors and chemicals associated with cleansers may enjoy using an ultrasonic cleaner. A home version of the machine dentists use, these devices use water and UV lights to provide a professional cleaning within a senior's assisted living apartment.
When shopping for oral health products, quit-smoking items may not be the first thing that comes to mind for many seniors and their families. However, studies have shown smoking adversely affects oral health by doubling the risk of periodontal disease for a smoker compared to a nonsmoker.
The use of tobacco products increases bacteria within the mouth and inhibits the body's immune defense, making it harder to combat infections. Over time, smoking can irreparably deteriorate tooth enamel and gums, increasing the risk of tooth decay and loss.
Stopping smoking, however, can greatly improve a senior's health, including reducing their risk for oral cancers and raising oxygen levels in their blood, which enhances the immune system.
The most important step in good oral health is to consult with professionals. Dentists can guide seniors through the steps they need to take to keep their mouths healthy and their smiles confident and bright.
Here at Bethesda Gardens Frisco, our residents can ask staff for assistance traveling to their dentist and to the store to pick up their preferred oral health products.
Seniors can also ask for help planning and completing their daily oral hygiene routines. Their caregivers can also offer ways to track important information, such as changes in a senior's oral health and when they need to schedule a dental appointment, renew a prescription or change their toothbrush.
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