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Layin’ It on the Line: Preventive dental care is essential to a happy retirement

By Lyle Boss - Special to the Daily Herald | Apr 20, 2024

Courtesy photo

Lyle Boss

Preventive dental care is crucial for seniors to maintain good oral health and overall well-being as they age. As individuals grow older, they become more susceptible to dental issues like tooth decay, gum disease and oral infections. Implementing a proactive approach to dental care can help seniors preserve their natural teeth, prevent pain and discomfort, and reduce the risk of systemic health problems associated with poor oral health.

One of the foundational components of preventive dental care for seniors is regular dental check-ups and cleanings. Seniors should schedule dental visits at least twice a year, or as recommended by their dentist, to monitor their oral health. These routine examinations allow dentists to identify and address any emerging issues early on, such as cavities, gum disease or signs of oral cancer. Professional cleanings performed by dental hygienists help remove plaque and tartar buildup that can lead to decay and gum inflammation.

Maintaining a proper oral hygiene routine at home is equally important for seniors. Dentists should emphasize the importance of brushing teeth at least twice a day with fluoride toothpaste and using dental floss or interdental brushes to clean between teeth. For seniors with mobility or dexterity challenges, electric toothbrushes or other adaptive devices may be recommended to ensure thorough cleaning. Proper denture care is also essential for those who wear removable prosthetics, as neglecting denture hygiene can lead to oral infections and discomfort.

Another crucial aspect of preventive dental care for seniors is addressing dry mouth (xerostomia) and its associated risks. Many seniors experience reduced saliva production due to medications, certain medical conditions or age-related changes. Saliva plays a vital role in neutralizing acids and washing away food particles, so a dry mouth can increase the risk of tooth decay and oral infections. Dentists may recommend specific oral rinses, saliva substitutes or lifestyle modifications to alleviate dry mouth symptoms and maintain oral moisture.

Regular screenings for oral cancer should also be part of preventive care for seniors. Dentists are trained to identify suspicious lesions or abnormalities in the mouth, throat and neck during routine exams. Early detection of oral cancer significantly improves treatment outcomes, making these screenings crucial for seniors, especially those with a history of tobacco or alcohol use.

Seniors should also be educated about the impact of nutrition on oral health. A balanced diet rich in vitamins and minerals supports healthy teeth and gums. Dentists can provide guidance on dietary choices that promote oral health and recommend supplements if necessary. Additionally, reducing the intake of sugary snacks and beverages can help prevent tooth decay and maintain a healthy smile.

Lastly, preventive dental care for seniors should consider individualized treatment plans based on each person’s unique needs and medical history. Dentists should collaborate closely with other health care providers to coordinate care for seniors with complex medical conditions or those taking multiple medications that may affect oral health. This holistic approach ensures that seniors receive comprehensive dental care that aligns with their overall health goals.

In summary, preventive dental care is essential for seniors to preserve their oral health and quality of life as they age. Regular dental visits, proper oral hygiene practices, management of dry mouth, screenings for oral cancer and nutritional guidance all contribute to maintaining healthy teeth and gums. By prioritizing preventive care, seniors can enjoy a comfortable and confident smile well into their golden years.

Lyle Boss, a native Utahn, is a member of Syndicated Columnists, a national organization committed to a fully transparent approach to money management. Boss Financial, 955 Chambers St., Suite 250, Ogden, UT 84403. Telephone: 801-475-9400.


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