Protecting Oral Health During The Golden Years

As one ages, it is important to remember that teeth are a vital part of keeping the body healthy. Things to look out for are gum disease, oral cleanliness and denture care.

As one ages, it is important to remember that teeth are a vital part of keeping the body healthy. Things to look out for are gum disease, oral cleanliness and denture care.

Oral Health for Seniors

A healthy smile is a bonus at any age. Too often older people, especially those who wear false teeth (dentures), feel they no longer need dental checkups. It's not too late to start learning the basics of oral health care. Even those who already know the basics can brush up on their knowledge.

Gum (Periodontal) Disease

A common cause of tooth loss after age 35 is gum (periodontal) disease. These are infections of the gum and underlying bone that hold the teeth in place. Gum diseases are also caused by the bacteria in dental plaque. The bacteria produce an acid or enzymes that cause the gums to become inflamed and bleed easily. If left untreated, the disease gets worse as pockets of infection form between the teeth and gums, causing the supporting bone to dissolve away. If left unchecked one may lose enough bone to cause their teeth to become loose, and eventually require extraction. Gum disease may be prevented by routinely removing plaque through brushing, flossing and regular dental visits.

Cleaning the Teeth and Gums

Some people (with arthritis or other conditions that limit motion) may find it hard to hold a toothbrush. To overcome this, the toothbrush handle can be attached to the hand with a wide elastic band or may be enlarged by attaching it to a sponge, styrofoam ball, or similar object. People with limited shoulder movement may find brushing easier if the handle of the brush is lengthened by attaching a long piece of wood or plastic. Electric toothbrushes are also very effective and helpful to many.

Dentures

Those who wear false teeth (dentures), should keep them clean and free from food that can cause stains, bad breath, and gum irritation. Once a day, brush all surfaces of the dentures with a denture care product. One should remove the dentures from their mouth and place them in water or a denture cleansing liquid while sleeping. It is also helpful to rinse the mouth with a warm salt water solution in the morning, after meals, and at bedtime.
Partial dentures should be cared for in the same way as full dentures. Because bacteria tend to collect under the clasps of partial dentures, it is especially important to clean this area. Also, pay particular attention to brushing the gums of the anchor teeth.

Dentures may make one's mouth less sensitive to taste, hot foods and liquids, and lower the ability to detect harmful objects such as bones. If problems in eating, talking, or simply wearing dentures continue after the first few weeks, it is important to see the dentist about making adjustments.

Professional Care

In addition to practicing good oral hygiene, it is important to have regular check-ups by the dentist whether one has natural teeth or dentures. It is also important to follow through with any special treatments that are necessary to ensure good oral health. For those who have sensitive teeth caused by receding gums, a dentist may suggest using special toothpaste or desensitizing gel for a few months. Teeth are meant to last a lifetime. By taking good care of their oral health, teeth and gums can be protected for years to come.

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Dental & Vision Extras (www.dentalandvisionextras.com) is a joint venture of The Dental Care Plus Group and Total Vision Services.

The Dental Care Plus Group is the largest dental carrier in the Greater Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky area with expanding operations throughout Kentucky and Ohio. For more information, visit www.dentalcareplus.com.

Total Vision Services, based in Cincinnati, offers both insured and noninsured vision benefits through a nationwide network of providers. For more information, visit www.totalvisioncare.com.

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