Last week I addressed the topic of National Oral Health Month by making note of some oral health issues that can arise, particularly as one ages. We know that poor oral health can affect a person’s quality of life. Oral pain, missing teeth or infections can influence the way a person speaks, eats, and socializes and these oral health problems can affect your physical, mental and social well-being.
People of all ages can enjoy good oral health and benefit from regular professional dental care. Provided they are cared for properly, your teeth and gums will look good and stay healthy for life. As you age, however, you may need to make a few changes in the way you care for your teeth and gums. If you need advice on looking after your teeth and gums, or those of a dependent relative or friend, your dentist and the Canadian Dental Association can provide you with valuable information. Check the CDA website at www.cda-adc.ca for some great fact sheets on dental care and oral health.
Some suggestions for seniors:
- Floss at least once a day and brush your teeth twice a day. Along with regular checkups and professional cleanings, brushing and flossing are the most important things you can do for your dental health. If you find holding a toothbrush difficult because of arthritis or another health condition, try enlarging the handle with a sponge, several layers of aluminum foil, or a bicycle handle grip. If flossing feels awkward or if your fingers always seem to get ‘tangled’, try using a plastic floss holder or try dental tape instead as it is wider and easier to grasp than floss. Ask your dentist or hygienist for a recommendation.
- You need to care for false teeth and partial dentures as carefully as you would look after natural teeth. Clean them daily to remove plaque and tartar. Take out dentures and partials every night and soak them overnight. Use a special cleaner for false teeth or a mixture of warm water and vinegar (mix 50/50). If your dental appliance has metal clasps, use warm water only. Brush your remaining teeth and gums with a soft bristled toothbrush. Massage your gums and if necessary just use your finger wrapped in a clean, damp cloth.
- If you are caring for a loved one, consult with your dentist or hygienist for some tips on providing appropriate oral health care. Remember that your loved one may not be able to express feelings of pain and discomfort so be sure to monitor their mouth for warning signs of gum disease, sores, and other irritations.
- Healthy food is good for your general health and oral health. The nutrients that come from healthy foods help you to fight cavities and gum disease. Limit your consumption of foods and beverages that contain sugar, and if you must indulge, try to brush or rinse immediately afterward.
- Avoid all tobacco products. Not only do they stain your teeth, tobacco use leads to tooth loss, infected gums, oral cancer, and bad breath. If you take care of your teeth and gums at home and visit your dentist regularly, your smile should last you a lifetime. “You smiled then, and your whole face changed with it. It kind of lit up, like there were sunbeams coming from inside you.” ― Lucy Christopher “The face of a truly happy man seldom lacks smiles.” ― Ogwo David Emenike