The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports nearly a quarter of Americans between the ages of 65 and 74 have severe periodontal disease. An often overlooked area of senior care, good oral hygiene can make food taste better, ward off infections, and improve self-esteem. Try these oral hygiene tips to help you improve your dental health, or the health of your loved one, today.
Brushing your teeth at least twice a day (preferably after every meal) is the most important thing you can do to maintain oral health. When you do, hold your toothbrush at a 45-degree angle and work the bristles gently into your gumline with short, back-and-forth strokes. In addition:
- Choose the right brush. The shape of the brush is not as important as the flexible bristles found on soft and medium brushes.
- Use the correct technique. Taking your time and brush systematically and thoroughly, covering the surfaces of all of your teeth, the inside of your mouth, and your tongue.
- Go electric. Whether the device spins, pulsates, or vibrates back and forth, electric toothbrushes such as Philips Sonicare make brushing easier.
- Exercise proper toothbrush care. Allow your brush to air-dry and replace it every three to four months.
Flossing plays a tremendously positive role in oral hygiene by removing plaque from areas of the teeth brushes can’t reach. Consider the best method for yourself: Floss picks have not been demonstrated to provide better or worse results than string floss; however, with string floss, you can maintain a fresh strand for every space and clean more thoroughly between your teeth. Here are a few more flossing tips:
- Use about 18 inches of floss. Too short a piece makes the job more difficult, while too long a piece simply wastes floss.
- Keep the string tight and wind it up so that only a couple inches of floss remain between your fingers. When floss is too loose, it is more prone to snag or fray.
- Make sure every space gets cleaned by sweeping up both sides of all teeth. You don’t need to apply much pressure.
- Work systematically around both upper and lower teeth. Developing a routine helps ensure you won’t miss a spot.
The CDC estimates about a quarter of seniors have no remaining natural teeth. Millions more wear partial dentures. To help avoid painful, costly dental health problems, keep these tips in mind:
- Never wear dentures overnight.
- Always brush and rinse dentures before leaving them in water when not in use.
- Denture cleaning solutions are helpful but do not substitute for regular brushing and rinsing.
- Go easy on denture creams, especially those containing zinc.
- Check your mouth for any sores or problem areas that may occur beneath dentures.
- See your dentist if your dentures are too loose or feel uncomfortable.
- Avoid dropping dentures, as many are breakable.
When it comes to rinsing your mouth, opt for lukewarm water over mouthwash. Many mouthwashes contain alcohol, which can dry your mouth and cause further issues. Avoid sugary drinks, and see a dentist if you notice any persistent changes in your breath, or excessive dryness, pain, tenderness, or discoloration in any area of your mouth. Above all, remember that no oral hygiene tips are effective in isolation — but with proper brushing and flossing techniques, you can avoid a host of oral health issues, maintaining your independence (and your self-confidence) for years to come.