As we age, it’s important to eat well, exercise and maintain our overall health. That includes maintaining good oral health. If you have a health condition like diabetes or heart disease or if you’re taking medicine that causes oral health problems, it’s especially important to take care of your teeth and gums.
According to the CDC, when it comes to oral hygiene, older adults are at a higher risk of infections of the mouth and teeth, tooth decay and oral cancer. That makes caring for our teeth and gums as we age even more important. Oral care not only prevents cavities, tooth loss or worse, it also makes it easier to enjoy food and its nutritional benefits.
It’s not hard to prevent tooth and mouth problems as we grow older. If we’ve maintained our oral health throughout our lives, we’ll find that those same practices will serve us well as we age.
Follow these tips to keep your teeth and gums healthy as you age:
- Brush teeth with fluoride toothpaste twice a day.
- Floss daily. Use either regular or waxed floss, flossing brushes or picks.
- Rinse with an antiseptic or antibacterial mouthwash each day. This will reduce plaque-forming bacteria and prevent gum disease.
- Drink fluoridated water if it’s available.
- Eliminate or severely restrict the use of tobacco products.
- Limit the consumption of alcoholic drinks.
- Cut down on sugary foods and drinks to prevent tooth decay and preserve your overall health
- Visit your dentist twice a year for cleaning and an oral exam, even if you have no natural teeth or have dentures
Did you know that changes in your mouth can be a warning sign of other health problems? When you do visit your dentist, make sure to mention if you notice any of the following:
- Loose or sensitive teeth
- Dry mouth. This is caused by many things, including reduced saliva flow, diabetes and some medicines.
- Difficulty tasting, chewing or swallowing food or a diminished sense of taste.
- Pain, discomfort, sores, bleeding or numbness in your mouth.
- Lumps, bumps, spots or swellings in your mouth, lips or throat that feel uncomfortable.
- Darkened teeth which can mean a change in dentin or other more serious health problems.
- Poorly-fitting dentures which cause gum inflammation.
Paying for your oral care
Even though good oral health is important, it may come as a surprise to discover that Medicare doesn’t cover most dental care. However, as a senior, you have a few options to ensure you keep your oral health in tip top shape.
- Purchase private dental insurance from companies such as Humana, Cigna and Delta Dental. Look for a PPO that allows you to go to any licensed dentist or find a prepaid dental HMO.
- Find low-cost dental care through dental schools and local clinics.
- Talk to your dentist about reduced fees for services if you pay with cash.
- Finally, if you need significant work like dentures and crowns, most dentists offer payment plans and financing options.
Your health and well-being are important. Please feel free to download the Wesley Heart Healthy Cookbook for nutritional recipes you and the whole family can enjoy.