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The Importance of Oral Hygiene for Seniors

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Did you know that poor oral hygiene can lead to other health problems? Recent research reports that the health of an individual’s mouth mirrors the condition of their body as a whole; the healthier your teeth and gums, the healthier your body! And because October is recognized as National Dental Hygiene Month, we thought it was fitting to share how important maintaining good oral health is for the elderly population.

One of the standout benefits of good oral health is the reduced risk for a handful of other age related conditions. For instance, the Academy of General Dentistry shows that there is a relationship between gum disease and other health complications such as heart disease and stroke among seniors. Older adults who brush, floss and visit their dentist on a regular basis are actively working to stay healthy as they age. Other conditions which seniors are at less at risk for developing when good oral health is maintained include oral cancer, diabetes, kidney disease and leukemia.

It is suggested that seniors should brush at least two times a day for two to three minutes with fluoride toothpaste, and should also floss to remove plaque that a toothbrush may not be able to reach. However, at Home Care Assistance of Omaha, we recognize that for individuals over the age of 65, brushing and flossing regularly can be tricky. Here are some tips to help overcome the most common brushing and flossing problems:

  • Sensitive teeth

    If you or an aging loved one have sensitive teeth, the thought of brushing can be a nightmare. To help reduce sensitivity, use desensitizing toothpaste to reduce pain. Also be sure to use a soft-bristled toothbrush and avoid abrasive toothpastes. Additionally, after consuming acidic food or carbonated beverages, brush your teeth as soon as possible. These types of food and drink can soften enamel and can make teeth more vulnerable and sensitive while brushing.

  • Disliking the taste of toothpaste

    With age, it is common for taste buds to change. Similar to the taste of certain foods, the taste of toothpaste is something that may no longer be pleasing to a senior’s palette. If you or an aging loved one dislike the taste of toothpaste, simply brush with water and rinse with a mouthwash after to compensate for the lack of fluoride from not using toothpaste. By selecting a fluoride rinse, you can avoid the taste of toothpaste, finding a substitute that is more tolerable.

  • Lack of motivation

    Sometimes with age, certain tasks seem to fall in terms of importance. However, as mentioned previously, there are many benefits to good oral health so it’s important to stay motivated! Consider purchasing an electronic toothbrush which is easy to use and doesn’t require much effort. There are also small flossing picks that can be used which are much easier to use than standard floss and can be done while doing other things such as watching television.

  • Loss of ability or motor function

    Arthritis and frailty are just a few of the things can make the motion of brushing difficult and in some cases, painful. See if a family member can provide assistance and if not, it may be time to consider help from a professional in-home caregiver. Caregivers can assist with personal care including brushing and flossing, as well as bathing, dressing and grooming.

Of course, in addition to regular brushing and flossing, the best thing you can do in terms of maintaining oral health is to see your dentist regularly. Not only will routine check-ups ensure healthy teeth and gums, it allows your dentist to keep a look out for developments that may point to more serious health issues.

For more tips on senior health or to learn how an in-home caregiver could help you or an aging loved one, visit our website at www.homecareassistanceomaha.com or contact a Care Manager today at 402-763-9140.