Oral Health for Older Adults
“What Can I Do To Maintain Good Oral Health?
Drink fluoridated water at recommended level and brush with fluoride toothpaste twice a day. Fluoride protects against dental decay at all ages. Bottled water may not contain fluoride.
Practice good oral hygiene. Careful tooth brushing and flossing to reduce dental plaque can help prevent gum disease. Caregivers need to help with daily oral hygiene routines of elders who are unable to perform these activities independently.
Eat a balanced diet low in sugar and starches.
Avoid tobacco. Smokers have seven times the risk of developing periodontal disease compared to non-smokers.
Limit alcohol. Drinking high amounts of alcohol is a risk factor for oral and throat cancers. Sudden changes in taste and smell need not be considered a sign of aging, but a sign to seek professional care. Alcohol dries the mouth and can make a person more prone to cavities.
Professional care helps maintain the overall health of the teeth and mouth, and provides for early detection of precancerous or cancerous lesions. Make sure that you or your loved one gets dental care prior to having cancer chemotherapy or radiation to the head or neck. See your dental provider on a regular basis, even if you have no natural teeth and have dentures.”
-courtesy of the Washington State Dept. of Health
“Wear clean, disposable gloves.
Sit loved one/patient upright or bring them to a sink. Have a towel handy and a disposable cup for potential spills. If sitting in a chair, stand behind them and cradle their head.
Using a soft bristle toothbrush, brush each tooth with a small circular motion and gentle pressure. Angle the brush towards the gums as you brush the outside, inside, and chewing surface of each tooth. Brush for two minutes, at least twice a day. If available, electric toothbrushes are typically more effective.
Gently brush the tongue and roof of the mouth.
Have them rinse with water or an alcohol-free germ-fighting mouthwash.
Take a look at their lips and inside of the mouth. If you notice any cracking, lumps, white or red lesions, or sores that do not heal within 2 weeks, you should consult a dentist or doctor.
Floss all teeth, dental bridges, and implants. Other
dental aids such as interproximal brushes, floss
threaders or softpicks may also be helpful
Clean dentures daily and remove at night.
If they are unable to rinse, ask them to spit out any excess toothpaste and debris. (Leaving a film of fluoridated toothpaste on the teeth can be beneficial.) If your loved one/ patient is resistant to your assistance, be patient. Consistency, repetition, and encouraging words will help them adjust.
Remove any remaining food from your loved one’s mouth. Gauze or a soft cloth can be helpful to wipe away excess food. If brushing is not an option, ask them to rinse with a cup of water then spit back into the cup. Frequent sips of water throughout the day will help cleanse the mouth. Gum with xylitol is also a good option to help cleanse the mouth.
If Cleaning Problems Persist:
Ask your dentist about germ fighting rinses. They may also prescribe a stronger toothpaste that contains more fluoride to prevent cavities.
Professional Dental Care:
Even if there are no problems, everyone should visit the dentist for a professional cleaning and exam twice a year. Even those who wear dentures are in need of an annual dental exam.”
-courtesy of Elizabeth Southern Puette, RDH, BSDH, MS
Member of the American Dental Hygienists’ Association
“Healthy Teeth are necessary for a healthy body. With good habits at home like brushing, flossing, fluoride, regular dental care, and avoiding tobacco products, older adults are able to keep their teeth a lifetime.”
–courtesy of the Washington State Dept. of Health
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