oral care seniors

Oral Care for Seniors

Oral care is important at any age, but it becomes more difficult as you get older. Hopefully, the good habits you learned as a child will help you keep your own teeth well into your golden years. But there is more to senior oral care than simply brushing and flossing.

Here are some tips that you can use to help your mouth stay healthy and your chompers happy:

Daily Maintenance

Obviously you want to continue brushing your teeth at least twice each day and flossing at least once (right before bed is a good time because that way food particles and plaque build up won’t fester in your mouth over night) a day.

Use a fluoridated mouth wash. This is important no matter where you live, but if you live in a state like Oregon, which does not fluoridate its water, you might want to consider asking your dentist for a prescription strength mouthwash.

Make Sure You’ve Got Enough Calcium

Increase your calcium intake. Adults aged 19-50 years old and men aged 50-71 need to take in at least a thousand milligrams of calcium each day. Men over the age of 71 and women over the age of 50 need at least 1200mgs. Try to get as much of it as you can from natural sources: dairy products, leafy green veggies, etc. Natural calcium is easier for your body to absorb. If you think you’re falling short, talk to your doctor about calcium supplements.

Work Around Your Medications

Ask your doctor if any medications you are taking or that she is prescribing will interfere with your oral health. Some medications will block or greatly reduce the body’s ability to absorb calcium which can lead to oral health issues. Do *not* drink sugary drinks if your medications cause you to have dry mouth! Drink only water. Sugary drinks will only add to your problems (though, yes, they are tasty).

Eat Carefully

Modify your diet. Unfortunately as we get older, our bodies don’t process foods as easily as they did when we were younger. Even things we loved later in life can turn on us. This can make getting the nutrients you need very difficult. Talk with a doctor or nutritionist to get help setting up a healthy meal plan that takes these dietary limitations into account (and that can be worked around medication schedules).

Regular Check-ups Are Still Important!

Visit a dentist at least every six months. Yes, this can be expensive but getting screened for oral cancer and other problems regularly is what helps catch them before they grow—something that only increases in importance as we age.

Be Your Own Advocate

If you or someone you love is living in an assisted living facility, make sure that the staff understands your oral care needs and routines. Senior oral care expert Dr. Mo Saleh says that the oral health of assisted living residents and nursing home patients is declining in large part because currently there is no universal standard of oral care for assisted living or nursing home staff to follow (it is something he is working with legislators to change). Most of the staff at these facilities are over worked and don’t always have the time to check you out properly. Do not back down or allow them to put you off if there is a problem!

You’ve worked hard since you were very little to keep your own teeth. Use these tips to help make sure they last your whole life!

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