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Oral Health and Seniors: Part II

Last week we examined a few conditions that arise in the oral cavity; this week we will touch upon ways to help circumvent problems from happening in the first place.

Senior couple relaxing outside

And if they already occurred?  Well, some damage may be difficult to undo, but other types can be stopped or even reversed.  Here are some suggestions.

  1. Clean the teeth.  A good cleaning entails more than brushing two or three times a day.  It’s also important to clean the tongue, the sides of the mouth, and even the roof area to help remove food and other particles (and don’t forget the twice-yearly dental hygienist visits).
  2. Choose the right toothbrush.  A soft-bristle toothbrush angled to reach front and back teeth is a great choice.  Medium and hard-bristles can wear away enamel and/or gum line integrity.
  3. Consider a battery-operated toothbrush.  A soft-bristle battery-operated toothbrush is a wonderful option to break up plaque, especially for people who find regular toothbrush maneuvering difficult.  Why is it so good?  Because it does a lot of the work for you.
  4. Buy a tongue scraper.  The tongue is often a breeding ground for bacteria, and these pesky bugs can wreak havoc in the mouth.  How do you scrape the tongue?  Place the scraper as far back as the gag reflex will allow and gently move the object forward: rinse and repeat the process two or three more times.  The result?  A cleaner tongue!
  5. Use mouthwash.  Mouthwash further aids the cleaning process, as it tends to break down/dissolve plaque, kill germs, and swish away debris.  Alcohol-based mouthwashes may contribute to dry mouth, so alcohol-free varieties are preferred.
  6. Be hygienic with dentures. Dentures should be cleaned after eating and stored in a proper solution in the evenings.  Bear in mind that the jawbone can experience changes over time; consequently, it is important to visit with the dentist for periodic assessments and/or adjustments.
  7. Floss! It’s doubtful that enough positive things can be said about flossing.  A man once asked his dentist, “Which teeth should I floss?”  The dentist replied, “Only the ones you want to keep.”  Flossing is important to not only tooth preservation, but it can also help circumvent other oral problems.  The potential for recession, tooth looseness, and gum disease are minimized by daily flossing.  Still, moving the dental floss in certain positions can be difficult for some people, especially those who suffer from finger stiffness or arthritis.  Floss holders, available at pharmacies and some department stores, can make the task much easier.  NOTE: If you take blood thinners such as Coumadin, be sure to talk to your dentist and/or physician regarding the best way to approach oral health.
  8. Limit drinks and foods that contribute to mouth problems.  Few people would suggest that wine, sugary foods or drinks, coffee, tea, alcohol, and tobacco are completely taboo (well, tobacco may be an exception).  Nonetheless, when these products are used with frequency, mouth issues tend to increase.  Subsequently, consume enjoyable fare in moderation, and consider carrying a portable toothbrush in your pocket or handbag just in case you need a quick cleaning.

Yes, oral problems may increase with age, but common-sense choices can decrease the likelihood.  Now that’s something we can all chew on!

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