Tips to Maintain Dental Health in Older Adults

Rosie Jeffers
January 17, 2022

As we get older, our bodies tend to show it. We get gray hair, our joints tighten, and we can't keep staving off those pesky wrinkles. Our teeth are no exception, and sure enough we usually end up with more dental issues as we age. Fortunately, there are ways to maintain dental health that can usually help you avoid the worst.

Let’s take a look at a few examples and recommendations.


Our dentist asks us every time we visit, and the answer is usually “Yes, of course I floss every day!” Of course, many of us hardly ever do it, to the point that those white-lie responses to dentists are often joked about. Nevertheless, the American Dental Association does indeed recommend that we floss at least once a day. There are multiple ways to do so: traditional waxed minty floss, interdental brushes (they look a little bit like mini pipe cleaners), and even water piks can get the job done. Whatever works for you, it's never too late to actually make flossing part of your routine.


Regular Checkups

This is a good idea for anyone, but it’s one that a lot of us get in the habit of ignoring because of cost. This is actually less of an issue for many seniors however, because of healthcare options. Kelsey Care Advantage explains that modern Medicare advantage plans tend to include preventive dental exams as part of the coverage, which makes it easier to maintain a regular, annual checkup schedule. This is in contrast to a lot of traditional private insurance plans that don't cover dental appointments. Provided it's affordable and/or covered by your plan, be sure to do those regular checkups (and bear in mind they can also save money in the long run by spotting issues before they require expensive care!).


Avoid Sugar

We’ve heard it for decades: Sugar will rot the teeth right out of your head. This old saying is unfortunately true, more or less. Action on Sugar tells us, “When sugar is consumed, it interacts with the bacteria within the plaque to produce acid." This acid gradually dissolves enamel, creating cavities and general decay that can ultimately result in the need for treatment (or even removal of the tooth). So, while you of course don't need to cut sugar entirely from your routine, this is something to be mindful of as you age. When you do put a little extra sweetener into your coffee or indulge in a dessert after dinner, take extra care to brush thoroughly.

Use an Antibacterial Mouthwash

As it turns out, brushing and flossing aren’t always enough. Mouthwash, being able to get into every nook and cranny that brushes and floss aren’t always able to reach, can help kill harmful bacteria and prevent the build-up of plaque. Now, some avoid this part of the cleaning process because of the burn, and if you've been uncomfortable before there are alcohol-free products that might help. That said, Talk Radio News does point out that you should avoid mouthwash if you’ve had mouth cancer or any type of ulcer-like condition in your mouth. Mouthwash irritates these conditions and can even increase the riskof oral cancer returning.


Drink More Water

Our saliva naturally washes away harmful bacteria. As we age, however, we tend to have dry mouths. It’s important to note that dry mouth doesn’t simply come with age though; it’s always caused by something (commonly an indirect result of older people simply feeling less thirsty). Regardless of the cause, however, we need to drink more water in order to wash away that harmful bacteria. Plus, as we all know, water is great for your body in general! Get those eight cups a day, or a little more if you can manage it.

Healthy dental habits are the best way to avoid painful and possibly costly dental visits. It’s true that some oral problems are unavoidable, but for the most part, we can prevent issues with regular checkups and diligent habits.

For more tips on this and related topics, feel free to visit us at TheTeledentists again soon!