Oral Hygiene Tips for Seniors

Sunrise Senior Living  |  August 26, 2016

Assist your aging parent with these oral hygiene tips.

Unfortunately, older adults are likely to experience issues related to oral health. According to the Washington Dental Service Foundation, about 75 percent of people aged 60 and older living in the U.S. have only some of their natural teeth. Gum and periodontal disease, as well as oral infections, are likely to blame because of a lack of self-care in older adults.

Neglecting to take care of teeth doesn't only cause oral issues. It has an influence on overall health and can increase one's chance for diabetes and heart disease. If you're concerned that your aging parent's oral health is at risk, be proactive and help him or her with these hygiene tips:

Brush and Floss Daily
Brushing and flossing twice a day can help your loved one reduce the risk of developing severe oral conditions. If your parent finds it hard to grip and brush thoroughly with a normal toothbrush, the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research suggested investing in an electric one.

Flossing may not be as important as it was once advised, according to The New York Times, but it still gets down in between the teeth and cleans where the toothbrush can't reach. If it's a task that's difficult for your loved one, lend a helping hand or buy them a water flosser.

Eat Nutritious Foods
Brushing and flossing are essential tasks for oral health, but so is nutritious eating. According to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, consuming a balanced diet of fruits, vegetables, lean protein, whole grains and low-fat dairy products will provide the nutrients needed for excellent oral health.

Calcium rich foods, such as fat-free milk, salmon and almonds, are best for teeth, as they promote strong bones. Encourage your parent to eat more of these foods and less sugary treats.

Avoid Tobacco
The U.S. Centers for Disease and Control Prevention reports that smokers are seven times more likely to develop periodontal disease than non-smokers. It can also increase one's risk for experiencing oral and throat cancers, as well oral fungal infections.

Limit Alcohol Intake
According to the Dental Health Foundation, alcohol drinkers are six times more likely to develop oral cancer than non-drinkers. Because it's loaded with sugar, drinking excess amounts of alcohol can cause cavities and overall damage to teeth. If your loved one is at risk for experiencing an oral health issue, it might be in his or her best interest to cut back on the alcohol.

Visit the Dentist Annually
To help your parent be proactive about oral hygiene, schedule an appointment for him or her to visit the dentist. Professional dental cleanings can take care of what brushing and flossing couldn't reach. A regular visit to the dentist can also identify issues that could potentially lead to pain and upset for your parent. Do your best to assist him or her to the dentist at least once a year.