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Simple precautions help older adults avoid dental and head injuries

This May's national Older Americans Month observance is focusing on injury prevention, and the ADA can offer some simple strategies that seniors can use to avoid injuries to their head and oral cavity.

Today's seniors are more likely to be active-enjoying biking, hiking, playing sports and more. According to the ADA's award-winning consumer website, MouthHealthy.org, people of all ages who participate in sports and recreational activities should wear a mouthguard to protect their teeth, tongue, lips and cheek lining. A recent study suggests that mouthguard use may also help guard against concussion.

You can choose between a custom-fitted mouthguard made by your dentist, a pre-formed stock mouthguard or boil-and-bite mouthguard that you soften in boiling water and then insert so it adapts to the shape of your mouth.

Using a mouthguard is also important if you wear braces or have fixed bridgework that could be damaged by a blow to the face or a fall. You can also protect your smile by not chewing ice, popcorn kernels or hard candy, which could crack a tooth.

Regular dental visits can help head off potential problems caused by dry mouth. Dry mouth can be a side effect of more than 500 medications, including those for allergy and asthma, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, anxiety or depression, Parkinson's and Alzheimer's diseases. Tell your dentist what medications you are taking and he or she can make recommendations to help relieve dry mouth symptoms and prevent cavities.

Some strategies for combating dry mouth include using over the counter oral moisturizer sprays or mouthwashes, drinking more water, using sugar-free gum or lozenges to stimulate saliva production, using a humidifier, avoiding foods and beverages that can dry out your mouth-coffee, alcohol, carbonated soft drinks and acidic fruit juices. Your dentist might also recommend a fluoride gel or varnish to protect your teeth from cavities.

Your dentist can also monitor your mouth to help you protect against periodontal (gum) disease, which can eventually destroy gum tissue and the bone and ligaments that support your teeth, leading to tooth loss. Periodontal disease can be painless until it's in the advanced stages, so make sure to see your dentist regularly.

Visit MouthHealthy.org for more information about the oral health concerns of older adults (http://www.mouthhealthy.org/en/adults-over-60/concerns) or what to do in case of a dental emergency (http://www.mouthhealthy.org/en/dental-care-concerns/dental-emergencies).

©2010 American Dental Association. All rights reserved. Reproduction or republication is strictly prohibited without the prior written permission from the American Dental Association.

05/21/2014

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