Proper oral hygiene is normally learned when we’re kids, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be someday forgotten. As we age, particularly as we really climb up there in years, some of the same motor challenges that inhibited us in brushing our teeth as children suddenly give us trouble all over again.
Let’s say you have kids at home, or even grandkids who come to visit, and you’ve shown your stuff in educating them on how to keep good oral hygiene. That’s great, really it is. But, have you thought about aging family members?
As people get older, the aging process inevitably affects the mouth. This means that tooth care becomes even more crucial—but with declining motor skills or memory, it can be hard for some aging members of the family to stay on top of it. And yet, we don’t have the same culture of helping (re)educate our parents on oral health when the time comes, despite how necessary it sometimes is.
- No matter whether your parents still have their natural teeth or prosthetics (or a combination), they absolutely have to keep on brushing their teeth two times per day. Care should be given to each tooth as they brush.
- There’s no “get out of jail” card on flossing just because you’ve aged. Make sure your parents know that they have to floss at least once per day—this doesn’t change, no matter what their diet.
- Mouth dryness is a bigger issue among older generations, which can lead to periodontal diseases. The best way to combat this is by drinking enough water every day. For those aging adults who do still find it comfortable to chew gum, a pack of their favorite flavor is another ready stimulant for a boost in saliva production.
- Dental check-ups are even more important as people age—the minimum is two per year. Additionally, any change they notice in their mouth should be an alarm that it’s time to make an appointment for any family member.
Dental challenges among older populations
With age, natural saliva production decreases, and the oral mucosa that the mouth produces to keep the cavity healthy becomes thinner. And with slowing and blocked blood flow, nutrients aren’t carried into the soft tissues to heal sores and dry lips as quickly as they would in a younger patient’s mouth.
Taste buds begin to respond differently, too, so be sure to maintain an open dialogue about what sounds “good” to eat and what doesn’t, and try to accommodate personal taste where you can, and encourage healthy meals that include the preferred ingredients.
Combined with the use of medications that bring side effects like dry mouth and other symptoms, the aging-related oral irregularities and waning oral hygiene can lead to serious oral disease. It might start with gum tissue becoming inflamed, sensitive and prone to bleed. If not treated, these symptoms can lead to teeth loss and even the loss of bone tissue.
It’s an exciting, and sometimes exhausting, prospect at helping the young ones learn good oral hygiene. We celebrate the mental image of “Father/Mother of the Year” as we help kids establish oral hygiene habits that we’re hopeful will stick. We enjoy our successes, and even more we enjoy those sweet smiles that show our job’s been well done.
But what about Mom and Dad?
Aging has enormous effects on oral health, and it’s often necessary to reaffirm oral hygiene habits with aging family members. Bear all these points in mind, and call our office if you have any questions! It’s our pleasure to serve our community of every age.