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Five Oral Health Tips for Healthy Aging

Sep 06, 2016

By Dean George

September is Healthy Aging Month - so say advocates of aging healthy.

For those in the early autumn of their senior citizen years, don’t think because cavities are less a concern at your age that you can let your oral health drift.

Just as we accumulate mileage on our anatomical chassis and internal biological engines, the same goes for our mouth. Aging affects more than teeth, it also affects gums and bones.


As previously reported in Dental Wire, oral bacteria can wreak havoc on a body’s immune system, leading to a host of serious issues ranging from heart disease and diabetes to stroke, colon cancer and Alzheimers.

Below are five easy tips to help seniors guard against breakdowns in oral health and maintain a healthy mouth.

1. Snack Wisely

Sugar, sweet candy and spice may be nice, but not so much for teeth. Healthier snacks like nuts, cheese and yogurt are good for teeth and bones. They also help neutralize those acids that plaque uses as a springboard to wear down teeth and enamel.

2. Drink Healthy

The best drinks for healthy teeth and bones are water and milk. For staying hydrated, nothing beats tap water. Most communities add fluoride that helps keep teeth healthy, and tap water has a higher pH value than bottled water. To quote The Most Interesting Man in the World, “Stay thirsty my friends.”

3. Bedtime Brushing

There’s an old dental adage: If you want to keep your friends, brush your teeth in the mornings. If you want to keep your teeth, always brush them at night. The benefits of brushing before bedtime are two-fold:

  • Think back on everything you ate since brushing your teeth this morning. Can’t remember? Who can blame you? That was probably over half a day ago and even retirees have busy days. The point is whether you enjoy all your meals at the dining room table or eat in front of the TV, most of us have selective memories on what we’ve eaten during the day; or wish that we hadn't.

Regardless, it’s a safe bet brushing at night is going to be more productive than brushing in the morning. Nighttime brushing removes particles from your teeth that accumulated during the day. Morning brushing is still important to freshen your mouth, even if you didn't dream about eating.

  • Brushing right before going to bed and leaving a bit of minty toothpaste residue on your teeth helps protect them by coating them with cavity-resistant ingredients like zinc and fluoride. Nighty-night – don’t let the nighttime bacteria bite!

4.  Twilight Gargling

There are almost as many mouthwashes on the market as there are toothpastes. For whatever reason, millions of people abstain from regular swishing and garbling. As previously reported here, Ad Age has estimated that half of America doesn’t use mouthwash and that trend has remained static for years.

Making time to swish and gargle each night is important because most mouthwashes include fluoride.  Fluoride and other natural ingredients like spearmint, lavender and cinnamon provide extra protection for teeth and gums while we doze. Why wouldn’t we want to greet the Sandman each night with minty fresh breath?

5. Talk with your Dentist

There are lots of talented dentists, but there are no known statistics on how many are also mind readers. Before your next dental appointment, create a list of your current medications and any oral side effects or symptoms you are experiencing.

In “5 Eroders of Tooth Enamel,” we wrote about how some medications can decrease saliva production and lead to dryness of the mouth and problems like Xerostomia. Saliva production is important because it helps neutralize the harmful bacteria found in oral acid.

If your mouth feels dry due to prescribed medications, share that with your dentist so they can prescribe alternative medications that will be salivary gland-friendly.

For the record, everyone should visit the dentist twice a year regardless of age. Regular dental visits are the best way of preventing small oral health issues from becoming big oral issues or worse.

Just as important as flossing before a dental visit is having a good dental plan that can help with regular visits. To find plans available in your area, click here.

Sources: healthyaging.net
Photo source: primeplus.org


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