Seniors (65+ years)
An increase in age doesn't have to mean a decrease in oral health. Below are tips to help maintain a healthy smile. Learn more.
Continue regular dental appointments and daily oral hygiene routines
- Continue to brush twice a day and floss daily.
- Maintain regular six-month dental checkups.
- Eat a healthy diet and one that includes calcium to keep bones strong and help to prevent osteoporosis. Women are more susceptible to developing osteoporosis than men. Regular physical activity helps keep bones strong, too.
Know that gum disease has been linked to:
- Diabetes - because diabetes limits the body's natural ability to fight off infection, good oral health habits are especially important to help keep diabetes in check.
- Heart disease - new research shows a correlation between early indicators of gum disease and atherosclerosis, a condition in which plaque builds up inside the arteries and causes coronary artery disease.
- Dementia - a study from the National Institute on Aging found an association between oral health and dementia, an analysis revealed older adults with signs of periodontal (gum) disease and mouth infections were more likely to develop Alzheimer's.1
Get screened for oral cancer and other mouth cancers
- Oral cancer affects twice as many men than women and half of all oral cancer diagnoses occur in people older than age 68. Learn more.
- Tobacco use, including cigarettes, cigars, pipes or chew are causes of oral cancer.
- A high intake of alcohol is another cause of oral cancer.
- Long-term sun exposure is a high risk for lip cancer.
- Contact your dentist or health care professional if you notice any white or red patches, mouth sores that won't heal, difficulty swallowing, or lumps in the neck or cheek. The earlier cancer is caught, the better the chances are of beating it. Read more.
Dry mouth is not a normal part of aging
- Prescription medications can sometimes cause dry mouth and this can make it hard to swallow, taste or even speak. Diuretics, analgesics, antihistamines and anti-depressants can cause dry mouth.
- Certain conditions can also affect saliva production, including diabetes, Sjögren's disease, Parkinson's disease and lupus.
- To stimulate saliva glands, stay well-hydrated - water is your best choice - and chew sugar-free gum.
Expect to keep teeth for a lifetime
Most adults in their 60's and beyond are keeping their natural teeth, due to good oral health. Some older Americans, however, have lost six or more teeth, and 20 percent have lost all of their teeth. Fortunately, dentures, implants, bridges and dental implants can help older adults continue to function much as they did when they still had their full set of natural teeth.
- Fixed partial dentures (bridges) are often recommended when only a few teeth are missing and the teeth and gums on either side of the missing space(s) are strong enough to support the additional load.
- Removable partial dentures are recommended if several teeth in a row need replacement or if the remaining teeth are too weak to support a fixed bridge.
- Full dentures are usually recommended when all natural teeth are gone.
- Overdentures are a variation on full dentures that use the roots of remaining "good" teeth or dental implants as anchors.
- Dental implants are like artificial tooth roots and are surgically attached to the jawbone and gum tissue. Dental implants stay in place better than dentures do, they help with proper chewing, they don't need to be removed nightly and they don't often need to be replaced.