It used to be that growing old automatically meant losing your teeth — but these days, age doesn’t have to mean losing teeth. In fact, many people who practice good oral hygiene can keep their teeth for their entire life.

Unfortunately, age can make it difficult to complete the oral health tasks that once seemed easy. A recent study shows that seniors are struggling to provide the oral hygiene care that their teeth need to remain healthy into old age.

Senior man is cleaning his teeth and smiling.

Study Tried Senior Oral Health Intervention

A new study from the University of Eastern Finland, published in the Age and Aging journal, followed approximately 275 participants over the age of 75 for a six month period.

The control group was simply monitored, and the remaining participants experienced an oral health and nutrition intervention. This intervention group was provided with a guide to oral and denture hygiene. To follow the guide, participants had to brush twice a day with a fluoride toothpaste, floss or otherwise clean the spaces between their teeth daily, and clean dentures daily if applicable.

After six months, both groups were re-examined. The findings painted a clear picture: The intervention group had significantly improved oral hygiene, less plaque, and higher functional ability and cognitive function — not surprising, considering that other studies have already linked dementia and poor dental health. In the control group, dental health universally deteriorated over the six month study.

Oral Health and Overall Health

While oral health may seem like a niche area of medical care, in reality, your dental health is inextricably tied to your overall health. Poor oral health has been connected to everything from heart disease to pancreatic cancer, proving that taking good care of your teeth is just as important as taking good care of any other area of the body.

But for seniors, some oral health tasks become more difficult to perform. Some older adults may lack the fine motor skills, flexibility, and strength required to thoroughly and properly brush the teeth, and flossing may be even harder.

This is why it’s important to speak to your dentist about good senior oral health care. Your dentist can recommend solutions to any problems you may have with your oral health routine. For example, an electric toothbrush can eliminate the need for a brushing motion, and flossers or interdental brushes can make flossing easier.

But no matter how good your oral hygiene routines are, there is some build-up that you simply cannot remove at home. This is why it’s important to see your dentist on a regular schedule for checkups and cleanings. Most people should see their dentist every six months, but your dentist can provide a cleaning schedule that best suits your needs.

Restorative dental care may also help with oral hygiene. If you have lost teeth or have gaps or damage, you may be more susceptible to decay. Dental implants, crowns, and even dentures can help make oral health care easier for seniors. Talk to your dentist about how restorative dentistry can simplify your oral hygiene routine.

For some people, caring for your teeth as you age can seem like an uphill battle. After all, you’ve been brushing for seventy years — don’t you deserve a break? Unfortunately, if you want to keep your teeth, your diet, and your lifestyle, taking good care of your teeth is something you can never slack on.

An experienced dentist can help determine the easiest way for you to keep up with your oral hygiene. If you’re a senior in Rockland County looking for dental care, call (845) 627-7645 or contact us online to make an appointment.