Many older people have worries about their dental health and preserving their smile – indeed, many may already have dentures, bridges and implants, and want to know the best advice for maintaining and improving their oral hygiene for many more years to come.
We therefore decided to compile 10 tips that you will probably find useful for keeping your own teeth and mouth in tip-top condition.
1. Drink water – lots of it
Older adults, in particular, can look after their teeth more effectively by making tap water their predominant everyday choice of drink, particularly given that it tends to have the fluoride that bottled water doesn’t. Fluoride, of course, is known to help prevent tooth decay.
2. Use a soft toothbrush along the gum line
It’s the most obvious advice of all, but yes, you definitely need to brush your teeth twice a day to maintain optimum dental health in your twilight years. But make sure you use the right equipment and technique, choosing a soft or electric toothbrush and brushing all tooth and gum surfaces.
3. Visit the dentist regularly
Even if you think you have a healthy mouth and dental routine, it’s still vital to go to the dentist, who can give you a proper oral health check and point out those things – like bleeding gums or any lumps or sores – that you may have missed, in addition to providing advice on how to address them.
4. Clean your dentures – but not with toothpaste
If you have dentures, remember to clean them after meals to remove food and plaque, using a mild soap to brush them on both the inside and outside. They should then be stored in a glass of cold water overnight. Remember, too, to brush your gums and tongue twice a day with a soft toothbrush.
5. Consider using fluoride mouthwashes
Some older people find it useful to incorporate a fluoride mouthwash into their oral hygiene routine, although it’s a good idea to ask your dentist first about its suitability for you. Oral-B has a useful guide to the differences between fluoride mouthwashes and non-fluoride mouthwashes.
6. Limit sugary foods and drinks
Whatever your age, sugar has much the same damaging effect on your teeth. Try to avoid sugary food between meals in particular, as this is when they can cause the maximum amount of decay. Try to avoid adding sugar to your tea or other beverages, either.
7. Eat nutritious foods
Eating a varied and balanced diet is one of the most effective defences against an old-age deterioration in your oral health. Try to embrace all of the food groups, from fruit, vegetables and cereals to fish, eggs and lean meat.
8. Put down the cigarette
It’s never too late to quit smoking, for both your dental and all-round health. Smoking is a common cause of both mouth cancer and gum disease, to say nothing of its wider health implications.
9. Check your medications
Certain medications – such as antihistamines and antidepressants – can cause an unusually dry mouth (also known as xerostomia) – a condition also linked to a heightened risk of tooth decay. If your medications aren’t sugar-free, you may ask if sugar-free versions are available. Even if there aren’t, you can still minimise your sugar contact by rinsing out your mouth with water after taking the medication.
10. Consider chewing sugar-free gum
The chewing of sugar-free gum could be another key part of your oral hygiene routine as an older adult. Independent research found that chewing such gum after eating or drinking increases saliva production, thereby helping to neutralise plaque acids, reduce oral dryness and maintain tooth mineralisation.
This post is a collaboration between ourselves and BF Mulholland.