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How to Protect Dental Health in the Later Years of Life

HowtoProtectDentalHealthintheLaterYearsofLife

As we get older, we become more susceptible to chronic health conditions like diabetes, heart disease or arthritis. We can also begin to see more problems with our teeth and gums.

Whether it's ourselves or an older loved one, oral health deserves a heightened focus as we age on prevention and prompt treatment. Here's what you can do to protect you or a family member's teeth and gums during the aging process.

Make accommodations for oral hygiene. Keeping your mouth clean of disease-causing plaque is important at any age. But it may become harder for someone getting older: Manual dexterity can falter due to conditions like arthritis or Parkinson's Disease. Older adults with decreased physical ability may benefit from larger gripped toothbrushes or those modified with a bicycle handle. Electric power brushes are another option, as are water irrigators that can do as effective a job of flossing as threaded floss.

Watch out for “dry mouth.” Older adults often develop chronic dry mouth due to saliva-reducing medications they might be taking. It's not just an unpleasant feeling: Inadequate saliva deprives the mouth of acid neutralization. As a result, someone with chronic dry mouth has a higher risk for tooth decay. You can reduce dry mouth by talking with your doctor about prescriptions for you or a family member, drinking more water or using saliva boosting products.

Maintain regular dental visits. Regular trips to the dentist are especially important for older adults. Besides professional cleanings, dentists also check for problems that increase with aging, such as oral cancer. An older adult wearing dentures or other oral appliances also needs to have them checked periodically for any adverse changes to fit or wear.

Monitor self-care. As long as they're able, older adults should be encouraged to care daily for their own teeth. But they should also be monitored in these areas, especially if they begin to show signs of decreased mental or physical abilities. So, evaluate how they're doing with brushing and flossing, and look for signs of tooth decay or gum disease.

Aging brings its own set of challenges for maintaining optimum dental health. But taking proactive steps and acting quickly when problems arise will help meet those challenges as they come.

If you would like more information on dental care for older adults, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also learn more about this topic by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “Aging & Dental Health.”

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  • "Dr Dave Brust has been our family’s dentist for 20 years - the best dentist I’ve ever had (and I lived in LA for 10 years, which supposedly has a good selection of dental professionals). Terrific hygienists, friendly, caring clinic staff, beautiful, warm office. HDC puts the P in Professional!"
    Iris E.
  • "1st visit was excellent. They had my records from my out of state dentist and picked up where prior dentist was in the yearly 2x visit per year. Communication was very good."
    Ed V.
  • "I strongly recommend Dr. Brust. He and his assistant do everything to make sure I’m comfortable and I always trust their diagnosis."
    Lynne F.
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  • "I have been going there 25 plus years and they have always had taken Great care of me and my teeth."
    Tom H.
  • "Amazing staff. Positive environment. Above and beyond perfect."
    Jerzie S.
  • "Professional and family oriented business. The hygienist was very kind and easy to talk to. She understood and listen to my needs and did a thoroughly cleaning of my teeth."
    Mimi D.
  • "Julie has been my hygienist for 40+ years I will miss her, she's been great. Dr. Buck and his father before him have always been so nice, professional and most importantly they make sure your comfortable. Dr. Buck always makes sure you don't feel anything if your getting any work done, which I appreciate. I guess I'm wimpy when it comes to pain in my mouth."
    Kate R.
  • "Where to begin? Dr. Brust has been my dentist for almost 30 years now! Him and his assistant make the best team. Absolutely enjoy my visits to Heritage Dental. I feel as if I were part of the team and not a costumer when I go in. My daughter’s absolutely love going to get their teeth polished as well!! Hygienist Ana and Bobbi do an excellent job taking care of my girls! I don’t think I could ever switch dental offices. Thank you for all you do at Heritage Dental!"
    Cindy S.