8 Simple But Effective Oral Care Tips For Seniors and the Elderly

Certified Senior Advisor (CSA)®
Assistive Technology Professional
Updated:

Besides daily brushing, regular flossing an dental visits, it is also important for older adults to stay hydrated, avoid tobacco, and keep their dental hardware well-maintained to have a happy, healthy mouth.

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Did you know that over 68% of adults – aged 65 years or more – have gum disease? Yes, the CDC also states that nearly one-in-five adults over 65 years of age have lost all of their teeth.1

Oral health deteriorates as a person grows older. The risk of tooth decay, gum disease, tooth loss, root decay, and dry mouth increases with age. On the other hand, poor oral hygiene is also linked to various infections, diabetes, and heart disease.

If your senior loved one doesn’t practice good oral hygiene, it can affect his or her overall health and well-being in the long run. This article provides information on highly effective oral care tips for your senior loved one.

Get A Suitable Toothbrush

A good toothbrush is a prerequisite to proper oral hygiene for your senior loved one. The right toothbrush should have a small head and soft bristles to reach every corner of the mouth. The brush should be approved by the dental association or similar authority in the country.

On the other hand, there are electric toothbrushes for seniors and the elderly that are easy to use – even for people with arthritis and joint pains. These toothbrushes are operated with a battery and provide a good daily cleaning to seniors who cannot use manual toothbrushes. Check the condition of your loved one’s toothbrush and replace it every three months or when the bristles start to fray.

Brush Daily

Encourage your loved one to brush his/her teeth at least twice a day – once in the morning and once before bed. Even though some dentists recommend brushing in-between every meal, brushing at least twice a day should be a manageable routine for your loved one. Brushing the teeth daily is the best way to promote oral hygiene in your aged loved one.

Your senior loved one may require more fluoride as he or she ages. Look for a good toothpaste with higher amounts of this ingredient. Seniors should use a soft toothbrush – either electric or manual – with the right bristle strength. Encourage your loved one to brush his/her teeth at least for two minutes each time.

There are also special toothbrushes for seniors and the elderly if a standard toothbrush is difficult to use.

Regular Flossing

Flossing plays an important role in improving the oral hygiene of your loved one. But many seniors don’t take the time to floss their teeth every day. Daily flossing helps improve your oral hygiene and reduces the risk of gum disease and tooth decay.

In fact, the benefits of flossing far outweigh its perceived inconveniences. If your loved one wears bridges or other dental hardware in his/her mouth, flossing can become inconvenient. A dental specialist can show your loved one exactly how to floss under wires, etc.

Stay Hydrated

Water plays an important role in improving oral hygiene. Your senior loved one should be drinking enough water every day to stay hydrated. This is even more important if your loved one is taking medications that cause a dry mouth.

Dry mouth is a common condition experienced by older adults, and it could lead to tooth decay and gum disease over time. Chewing sugar-free gum is a good practice since it helps stimulate the production of saliva and prevents the mouth from drying out.

On the other hand, your senior loved one should cut back on the intake of alcohol since it increases dehydration in older adults.

Use An Antibacterial Mouthwash

Using an antibacterial or antiseptic mouthwash once or twice a day is another effective oral care tip for seniors. It helps supplement your brushing and flossing routine. Make sure to brush your teeth, floss, and then use a mouthwash to gargle the mouth and throat area.

A good mouthwash helps your loved one get rid of germs and plaque. If your loved one wears dental hardware, he or she might be more prone to the build-up of bacteria and plaque. Opt for an alcohol-free mouthwash since it’s less aggressive in terms of taste.

Visit A Dentist

Regular dental visits are crucial for optimal senior dental health. In fact, regular dental exams are recommended for everyone including senior adults. Seniors should stick to a routine when visiting their dentist because not visiting a dental professional on a regular basis can worsen your oral health problems over time.

Your dentist will recommend teeth cleaning at least once or twice a year depending on the condition of your teeth. He or she will also advise you about how to care for your teeth and watch out for any dental condition so that it could be diagnosed early and treated before the condition worsens. The dentist will even check for various dental conditions including tooth decay and oral cancer during each visit.

Can’t leave the home safely? There are some dental provides that will come to the home. Here is how to find one.

Avoid Tobacco Products

Tobacco products can cause serious health issues including oral health problems. Smoking or chewing tobacco can stain your teeth. It also leads to cancers in the mouth and throat. On the other hand, tobacco products that contain sugar could result in tooth decay and gum disease.

Talk to your loved one and encourage him/her to quit smoking or using tobacco products. Your dental professional can help develop an effective plan for cessation. Remember, it’s never too late to quit tobacco products.

Take Care Of Your Dental Hardware

Most senior adults use some type of dental hardware including dentures, mouth guards, or other oral appliances. Caring for dental hardware is very important in order to improve the oral hygiene of your loved one. Your dentist is the best person to give you specific instructions on how to care for your dental hardware.

If your dentures are painful, uncomfortable, or cause other issues, you should visit your dentist and let him/her take a close look at the problem. If your senior loved one wears any type of dental hardware, they should visit the dentist at least once a year and have regular check-ins.

Wrapping Up

Oral hygiene tends to deteriorate as a person ages. The risk of dental issues such as tooth decay, gum disease, root decay, and tooth loss increases as your loved one ages. That is where effective oral hygienic practices come in handy.

Proper oral hygiene is an important part of a senior’s overall health. I hope this information about highly effective oral care tips for your senior loved one has been helpful!

Sources:

  1. https://www.cdc.gov/oralhealth/basics/adult-oral-health/adult_older.htm
Certified Senior Advisor (CSA)®
Assistive Technology Professional

Scott Grant has spent more than 20 years serving seniors and the elderly in the home medical equipment industry. He has worked as a manufacturer's rep for the top medical equipment companies and a custom wheelchair specialist at a durable medical equipment (DME) provider in WV. He is father to 4 beautiful daughters and has three terrific grandkids. When not promoting better living for older adults, he enjoys outdoor activities including hiking and kayaking and early morning runs.

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