Maintaining Oral Health As We Age
Better Oral Hygiene for a Better Lifestyle
Adults of all ages are often nervous or uncomfortable at the thought of making a dental appointment, so they visit a dentist infrequently or avoid going altogether unless there is a serious emergency. This “avoidance” approach means more than just risking the health of your teeth and gums. At Reformed Church Home, we advocate for comprehensive and regular dental care, because so many areas of physical and mental health are linked to good oral hygiene.
In fact, we believe so strongly in this that we have a mobile dentist who visits the Home to see residents needing regular or emergency oral care. These services are generally paid for privately unless the practitioner accepts Medicare or Medicaid. We can help navigate these questions and facilitate appointments for our residents at their request.
For the benefit of seniors reading this column, we’d like to share a few of the key reasons dental care is about more than just white teeth. If you have more questions on how living in a senior community can help you stick to a regular doctor and dental appointments for maximal health, just give us a call!
Physical Health Conditions Linked to Poor Oral Hygiene
Healthy teeth and gums are important contributors to more than just your smile. They affect your ability to eat a variety of healthy foods and help protect against outside bacteria that could eventually become a spreading infection. For example, periodontal disease occurs when bacteria infect the gums, leaving them swollen and inflamed. If left untreated, the disease weakens your teeth and jawbone, making it difficult to chew. Moreover, should the infection enter the bloodstream, it could increase the risk of cardiovascular disease, dementia, respiratory infections, and more.
Oral Health and Mental Health
Oral health and mental well-being are closely linked to overall physical health. If your oral hygiene is lacking, you may experience chronic pain and inflammation or trouble eating. Illness and lack of proper nutrition, in turn, begins to negatively affect mental health with potential onsets of depression or anxiety.
Senior citizens are particularly vulnerable to this cycle of poor oral health leading to poor mental health because as we age, physical changes such as degenerative arthritis, neuro-muscular changes, disability, or even injury make it difficult or impossible to accomplish the same level of daily oral care as before. This makes it all the more important to visit a dentist regularly for a simple exam and cleaning. Using low-cost products that improve oral care at home such as dental rinses, mouthwash or floss can also help prevent some common dental issues before they become bigger problems.
Prevention Isn’t A problem, It’s A Solution
Even if you don’t have noticeable symptoms of pain or trouble eating right now, that doesn't mean you can ignore regular visits to the dentist or good oral healthcare at home. We encourage all adults, regardless of age, to visit the dentist one to two times per year, or more often if your dentist recommends it. If you feel anxious about the visit, tell the dental office on the phone when you make your appointment, and ask your hygienist and dentist to explain each step of each process of your exam so you feel more relaxed. If further treatment is needed, let the dentist explain the procedure and why it’s important. Don’t hesitate to inquire about sedation or anesthesia options if you are worried about pain, but be certain to tell your dentist about ALL your health conditions and medications so they can determine if these options are appropriate and safe for you.
Meanwhile, keep your teeth clean at home to avoid periodontal disease by brushing with a soft toothbrush and toothpaste two to three times every day (after meals) and flossing once a day. If using loose floss is difficult or uncomfortable, try pre-threaded floss picks or a water flosser (also called an oral irrigator) to make sure you are doing all you can to care for your teeth and gums – which are truly essential to your quality of life!
Have questions on how living in a senior community can help facilitate regular dental visits and medical check-ups? Just give us a call!