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Don't Ignore Your Dental Health! Tips for Seniors

Charlie Culp - June 27, 2016 10:20 AM

Practicing good oral health habits is important at every age, but especially in your senior years. Even if you brush and floss daily, you may be at a greater risk for developing oral health conditions as your years advance. The good news is that by continuing to maintain good dental habits, establishing a healthy lifestyle, and regularly visiting your dentist, you can prevent many oral health issues that are associated with aging.

To keep your natural teeth looking and feeling great well into retirement, seniors and their caregivers should follow these seven easy tips:

Understand the impact oral health has on your total body health.

The health conditions that affect your mouth can also impact the rest of your body. Ongoing studies suggest a connection between chronic oral inflammation and an increased risk in developing serious systemic diseases that are common in older adults such as heart disease, stroke and diabetes.

Brush your teeth twice a day.

Twice-daily brushing is essential for maintaining healthy teeth and gums into your golden years. In fact, cavities increase with age, and neglecting your tooth brushing can place you at a high risk for decay. Use a soft-bristled brush and fluoride toothpaste to clean all surfaces of your teeth for two minutes. If you have difficulty holding your toothbrush due to arthritis or some other medical issue, consider investing in an electric toothbrush to make cleaning your teeth easier and more effective.

Commit to healthy eating habits.

The foods you regularly consume and how frequently you eat them can affect your general health and the health of your mouth, too. Limit foods and drinks high in sugar — like soda, candy and cookies — as these contribute to cavities and gum disease. Instead, eat a nutrient-rich diet, including water, low-fat dairy, lean sources of protein, raw fruits and vegetables, and whole grains.

Don’t forget to floss.

Use floss at least once a day to clean between teeth and along the gum line where your toothbrush can’t reach. Flossing is one of the best ways to prevent harmful plaque and tartar buildup that leads to decay and gum disease — the leading cause of tooth loss in adults. Ask your dentist about special floss holders that make flossing easier if you have limited hand movement.

Take proper care of your dentures.

If you wear partial or full dentures, it is important to clean them every day to remove bacteria. Use a cleanser made specifically for dentures, and remove your dentures at nighttime to allow the tissues in your mouth to breathe.

Give up smoking.

It is important to quit smoking for many health reasons — your dental health included. Smoking can cause gum disease, decay and tooth loss. Talk to your dentist or regular physician about ways to help you stop smoking once and for all.

Schedule regular visits with your dentist.

Visit your dentist twice a year for routine cleanings and exams. Regular dental exams can detect oral health problems early, while cleanings help keep the teeth free of plaque and tartar buildup. Your dentist can also screen for serious oral health problems — such as gum disease and oral cancer — that require prompt attention. Remember, you know your mouth better than anyone else. If you notice something different, including pain, sensitivity, loose teeth, abnormal spots in your mouth, or dry mouth, contact your dentist right away for an appointment.  

You only get one set of permanent teeth, so commit now to properly care for them your entire life. By following these simple tips, you can stay on track to keep your smile healthy and beautiful for many years to come.


Charlie Culp is a dentist at Culp Dental. He graduated from Clemson University, Summa Cum Laude, with a Bachelors in Biological Sciences before attending dental school at the Medical University of South Carolina. Charlie graduated in 2011 and is currently licensed in both North Carolina and South Carolina.

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