Oral health for healthy aging
Oral health is essential, regardless of age. However, the aging population might find it a bit more challenging to maintain their oral health. This is because our mouths become more susceptible to oral infections as we age. And, since oral health is critical in maintaining overall health and well-being, maintaining it should be your first priority. There are numerous ways in which you can do so, from the best invisible aligners on the market, through proper oral hygiene, to adopting (and maintaining) healthy habits. In this article, we will explain three main components of good oral health for healthy aging, point out common oral health problems in adults, and provide a few tips along the way.
Three components of good oral health for healthy aging
Maintaining good oral health is all about consistency. The fact of the matter is that most oral conditions are entirely preventable or treatable. However, as we age, it becomes more and more difficult to practice the necessary routine care. While there may be no age limit for braces, many seniors feel they should not even bother with them. But that is the entirely wrong approach to take. The best thing you can do is treat your oral health the same as your overall health. Similarly to how you may take your medications each day, maintaining your oral health needs to be something that you simply do every day.
To maintain your oral health properly, you will want to focus on the three primary components of good oral health for healthy aging:
- Oral hygiene
- Healthy habits
Improving your health might initially seem quite daunting, but it is rather easy. It all begins at home, and you might find that frequent dentist visits are not required if you do your part.
The importance of oral hygiene
Oral hygiene is not only about preventing plaque buildup and staying off gum infections and tooth decay. Oral hygiene affects your overall health in a big way. The two “big” issues connected with poor oral hygiene are diabetes and cardiovascular conditions. However, poor oral hygiene can also lead to numerous other complications, such as:
- Infective endocarditis
- Bacterial pneumonia
Furthermore, proper oral hygiene will help you detect oral diseases much earlier, prevent tooth loss, point out the warning signs that you need braces, and help your dentist create an oral treatment plan just for you. And, of course, it will allow you to have a beautiful, bright smile. There are numerous studies that show that a person’s smile heavily contributes to their self-confidence, self-esteem, and even their energy level. But oral hygiene is much more than ensuring that you have a beautiful smile. It is about improving your overall health and minimizing the risk that comes with age.
However, many people do not know what “proper” oral hygiene is. Some may think that brushing their teeth once a day is perfectly fine. Others may think that flossing is overrated. And some may even think that they do not even need to bother. You should not be like either of those people. What you might want to do, instead, is to learn what proper oral hygiene looks like.
Proper oral hygiene
To make sure that you maintain a healthy mouth and strong teeth throughout your life, you will want to do the following:
- Brush your teeth thoroughly twice a day, and floss once a day – This will remove most of the accumulated dental plaque throughout the day. Dental plaque deteriorates your teeth over time, and minimizing it is the best way to protect your teeth, mouth, and overall health.
- Drink fluoridated water – Fluoride is a natural mineral that can be added to water to reduce teeth cavities. You can mix it with your drinking water or use fluoride toothpaste. Either way, you should not go over 7mg of fluoride each day and try not to mix more than 2.5mg per liter of water. While there are no nutritional requirements for fluoride, it is generally accepted that 4mg a day for men and 3mg for women is a good intake.
- Do not use tobacco products – This may be the hardest thing you can do, or you might find it exceptionally easy. If you are a smoker and want to achieve and maintain good oral health for healthy aging, stop smoking immediately. Don’t think about it, don’t say “Next week”, do it now. As an added bonus, quitting smoking is one of the most efficient ways to whiten teeth. And your overall health will improve, as well.
- Limit (or stop) drinking alcohol – Like cigarettes, alcohol is one of the primary detractors of your overall oral health. Alcoholic drinks usually contain high amounts of sugar and acids, and some drinks (e.g. red wine) can heavily contribute to teeth staining. It is best if you can avoid drinking alcohol entirely, of course.
When to visit a medical professional
Maintaining oral health for healthy aging starts at home. However, it does not end there. There are many situations where you simply may need professional medical attention. Speaking of oral health, here’s what you may want to do:
- If your medications cause dry mouth, change them – While this might not always be possible, you should still talk to your doctor about changing your medications if they cause you to have a dry mouth. And if you can’t change the medications themselves, you will want to increase your water intake, avoid both tobacco and alcohol, and start chewing sugarless gum. This might not solve the problem entirely, but it will help.
- Visit your dentist once a year – Even if you have no natural teeth left or are using dentures, you should still make an effort to visit your dentist at least once a year. One of the qualities of a good orthodontist is that they can spot any irregularities that might contribute to your overall health. They will be able to identify the onset of a possible infection and help you prevent it.
You should also visit either your dentist or your doctor if you happen to notice any sudden changes when it comes to your sense of smell or taste. These issues might indicate problems that you might want to solve sooner rather than later.
How to care for dentures
If you have dentures, you will want to brush them twice a day. You will want to use mild liquid soap for this occasion and a denture brush. Alternatively, you may purchase denture paste instead of soap. You will want to clean your dentures to the best of your ability, then rinse them well. At night, you will want to put your (now clean) dentures in a container of fresh water. Lastly, you may want to disinfect your dentures before wearing them using a denture-soaking tablet. Lastly, you will still need to try and prevent gum disease by cleaning your tongue and gums. Just because you have dentures does not mean you should forgo oral hygiene.
Teeth braces for healthy aging
Teeth braces aren’t just for kids, everyone can benefit from them. If you happen to need teeth straightening, braces are the answer. These days, there are many different types of braces to consider, many of which can also be practically invisible. So, if you are particularly self-conscious and feel like braces would look silly on you, know there is a solution. That said, you should never consider improving your overall health an inconvenience. The only thing that matters is that good oral health for healthy aging is a must.
Age limit on braces
Everyone can benefit from teeth braces. While the best time to make mouth and jaw corrections may be behind you, that does not mean that you should not try to create a beautiful smile at all. That being said, there is a minimum requirement for braces, as your gums and bones need to be in good health. But if they are, and you want to achieve good oral health for healthy aging, you may want to consider wearing teeth braces for a time. Of course, this only applies if you happen to have a crooked or misaligned tooth.
Adopting (and maintaining) healthy habits is a must
When it comes to oral hygiene, your lifestyle and habits are perhaps the most important factor to consider. Dental problems do not occur immediately, they accumulate over time. That is why the best thing you can do to maintain good oral health for healthy aging is to try and change your lifestyle a bit. This means that you will want to limit snacking and start drinking more water. You may also want to include “tooth-friendly” foods into your diet. Some of the best foodstuffs for good oral health include:
- Plain milk
Incidentally, all of these foods are quite healthy on their own. You will want to stay away, to the best of your ability, from sugary foods and drinks and minimize juice, tea, coffee, and alcohol intake. If you happen to also have a dry mouth, try to avoid overly dry, salty, and spicy foods.
Best practices for good oral health for healthy aging
Aside from changing your diet a bit, you may want to change your habits and make them more “oral-friendly”. Here are a couple of best practices to adopt:
Do not go to sleep without brushing your teeth – Pretty simple but fiendishly hard to adopt. But this is, perhaps, the best thing you can do. Make an ironclad rule that you absolutely need to brush before bed, and you will see your oral health improve dramatically.
Try not to neglect your tongue – Many people who regularly brush their teeth are stupefied when they encounter oral health problems. That is because they did not brush their tongue as well as their teeth. Plaque can build on the tongue as well, after all.
Drink more water – We already mentioned this a couple of times, and it is worth mentioning again. Water is the absolute best beverage for both your oral health and your overall health. Make it a habit to drink a glass of water after every meal.
Learn to floss – Your toothbrush is a fantastic tool for removing plaque, but it can’t reach everywhere. That is why you may want to learn to floss your teeth to complement the toothbrush. Flossing can be tricky, but it is the best way to ensure that there is no leftover food inside your mouth.
Changing habits may be hard but it is also incredibly rewarding. You will have setbacks, it is all too normal to have them. But if you can persevere, you will find that both your overall and oral health have drastically improved.
Common oral health problems in older adults
By now, you may be thinking, “That is all fine and well, but why should I go through all this trouble?”. The reason why oral health for healthy aging is so important is that older adults are prone to a variety of dental issues, such as:
- Oral cancer – Most oral cancers are diagnosed in older adults. The median diagnosis age is 62 years, according to the National Institutes of Health’s “Chemotherapy and Your Mouth” study.
- Tooth loss – Almost 20% of adults aged 65 or older experience complete tooth loss. Tooth loss is one of the most important reasons why you may want to improve your oral health.
- Gum disease – Almost 70% of older adults (65 and up) have gum disease. While it is less dangerous than tooth loss, gum disease is still a serious concern.
- Tooth decay – Almost every single adult over the age of 65 is going to have a cavity at some point. Out of those, around 20% will also experience tooth decay, which is much more dangerous.
Furthermore, the presence of any chronic disease will increase the likelihood of developing periodontal disease. The fact that many older adults rely on medications and over-the-counter drugs may also reduce the saliva in the mouth and increase the risk of cavities. Overall, maintaining oral health for healthy aging is all about knowing what to do and what can happen. That, and being consistent in your efforts. Your oral health requires your ongoing attention, and you can never “drop the ball”, so to speak.
For more information on dental care, best oral health practices, and a list of the best dental companies currently on the market, refer to the rest of the Consumer Opinion Guide. Our articles are there to help you achieve and maintain a bright smile now and forever!