Good dental hygiene and oral care habits are important at any age. But as you get older, you might find yourself wondering if your dental routine needs some tweaking, or if certain life changes have also caused changes in your mouth. Whether you have all of your original teeth, some of them or a full set of dentures, diligently caring for your mouth is just as important when you get older as it was when you were a kid.
Fluoride isn't just for children. Even if you're over 50, it's still important to protect the surface of your teeth and ward off decay. The Mayo Clinic notes that older individuals have an increased risk for cavities, making it doubly important for you to make sure fluoride is a part of your daily routine. When brushing – twice a day – use a fluoride toothpaste. Drinking fluoridated tap water can also help you defend against tooth decay as you get older. If you are particularly concerned about cavities or have had a few as you've aged, your dentist might even give you an in-office fluoride treatment for an added level of protection.
Although getting older doesn't necessarily make dry mouth more likely, certain features of aging, such as more regular medications or a chronic condition, can increase your risk for dry mouth – along with cavities or decay. Dry mouth can also affect the fit of your dentures, according to the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research, often causing chafing between the dentures and your gums.
If you suffer from dry mouth, there are a few improvements you can make to your dental hygiene to reduce your symptoms. You can use a moisturizing mouthwash or spray, or chew sugar-free gum, which encourages the production of saliva. Another option is to use an artificial saliva product, often available from the pharmacy without a prescription. According to the American Dental Association, it contains ingredients that allow it to closely mimic real saliva.
You can also consult your doctor or dentist if your dry mouth is caused by medication. Adjusting your dose or trying a new medicine can help alleviate certain symptoms.
According to the American College of Prosthodontists, more than 178 million people in the United States are missing at least one tooth, and tooth loss is more likely to occur in older people. If you're among that group, it's still important to take care of those dentures just as you would care for real teeth. Use a toothpaste that is specially made for dentures, and make sure you clean them on a daily basis. You'll also want to brush your gums and tongue with a soft toothbrush to remove any bacteria and food particles from your mouth. If you have partial dentures, be sure to floss between the implants before you put the dentures back in. Your dentist can give you specific instructions on taking care of your dentures, so that they last as long as possible.
Whether or not you have all of your real teeth, gum disease remains a big concern among older individuals. A study published in the Journal of Dental Research found that nearly 64 percent of adults over age 65 had severe or moderate periodontitis in 2009 and 2010. Albeit common, gum disease doesn't have to be a cost of getting older. Maintaining good dental hygiene and seeing your dentist regularly will help you prevent it or treat it quickly.
A healthy smile looks great at any age. Keeping up with good hygiene habits, visiting your dentist regularly and making changes to your routine as your body changes will help you keep a great-looking smile for life.