Elderly woman smiling

Oral Health in Seniors

As we get older, our health becomes more and more important.  Oral health is no exception and senior patients (65+) often have additional needs when it comes to the management and well-being of their teeth and gums.

With age comes greater susceptibility to disease and infection, tooth decay, and conditions such as the dry mouth.  Nutrition also plays a huge role in the oral care of senior patients, especially those with preexisting conditions or those with partial/full dentures.  It’s important for older patients to maintain good oral practices, including regular dental check-ups, to prevent future problems.

The mouth is one of the most vulnerable areas to infection.  To help protect it from bacteria/viruses, your mouth is lined with a mucous membrane known as the oral mucosa.  As we age, this membrane becomes thinner and smoother, which makes it less effective at keeping bacteria and viruses from reaching deeper tissues (fat, muscle, nerve, etc.).  This also puts your teeth at a greater risk for decay.  To help offset this, it’s important for senior patients to keep their mouths clean through regular brushing, use of antimicrobial mouthwash, and regular visits with their dentists.

Many of us have probably heard about dry mouth at least once by now.  For those who don’t know, dry mouth is an oral condition where your salivary glands can’t produce enough saliva to keep your mouth wet.  Keeping your mouth wet helps protect it from things like gum disease, tooth decay, and mouth sores.  As our bodies age, our salivary glands have a harder time producing the saliva our mouths need.  Dryness can also be caused by certain medications.  Many senior patients take multiple medications every day and are at an increased risk of developing dry mouth as a result.  You should always make sure to tell your dentist about all your medications and let them know if you are experiencing problems with dry mouth.

One of the biggest contributing factors to oral health is nutrition.  It goes without saying that the better you eat, the better shape your body will be in.  This includes your teeth and gums.  Proper nutrition gives your mouth the vitamins and minerals it needs to maintain functions and keeps your teeth strong.  However, this isn’t always an easy task, especially for seniors.  Older patients who have partial or full dentures sometimes experience problems eating and end up eating less than what they need.  Some seniors may even experience pain caused by dentures that are either new or don’t fit properly. This keeps them from getting the nutrients they need and their oral health suffers as a result.

One solution to denture-related problems is softer foods.  Softer foods are easier to chew and less likely to irritate loose-fitting or new dentures.  It’s also important to regularly clean your dentures to prevent build-ups of bacteria and plaque.  Additionally, removing them will give your mouth, gums, and jaw a chance to rest.  If you’re still experiencing pain or discomfort, you should talk to your dentist about alternatives, such as dental implants or overdentures.

As we age, so do our mouths.  Taking care of our teeth and gums are essential for limiting infections and reducing pain/discomfort.  Senior patients require extra care to maintain proper oral health and prevent future

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