World Oral Health Day

Read our tips and tricks for maintaining a happy smile and why it's so important.

With age, it can become more challenging to keep up with oral health. As more of us are keeping our natural teeth for longer, it’s important to keep them healthy as poor oral health can affect the ability to eat, speak and socialise as well as damage confidence. Long-term health conditions exacerbated by age, such as Parkinson’s or arthritis, can increase the challenge of good oral health as they can make it harder to use a toothbrush or access professional dental care. We’ve compiled some tips and tricks to help you or your loved ones maintain a healthy, happy smile.

What common oral health issues do we face?

  1. Tooth decay. This happens when plaque bacteria produce acids from feeding on sugars and starches in the mouth which damages enamel. Tooth decay can cause cavities that eventually affect the whole tooth, requiring removal, fillings or root canals.
  2. Gum disease. This happens when a build up of plaque and tartar causes red, swollen and bleeding gums. Over time, the gums can pull away from the teeth and create pockets of infection. If not treated, infection can destroy the gums, teeth and bones and can cause tooth loss.
  3. Sensitive teeth. Sensitive teeth may be caused by weakened enamel or receding gums and can become worse with age. Toothpaste for sensitive teeth can help combat sensitivity experienced from cold, hot or sour foods.
  4. Diseases occurring in older adults. People diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease may forget the importance of proper oral hygiene or how to maintain it. Those with lower bone density, including people with osteoporosis, can experience loose teeth. Regular dental appointments can help identify and treat this.

What can we do to improve oral health?

  1. Brush teeth twice a day. Electric toothbrushes can help those with limited mobility brush their teeth more easily. Dentists can advise which type of toothbrush is the best for you if brushing your teeth is becoming challenging.
  2. Cleaning between teeth can prevent plaque buildup and should be done at least once a day. Interdental cleaners such as water flossers or floss holders can make this easier.
  3. Use fluoride toothpaste. Fluoride supports the remineralisation of enamel to prevent tooth decay, combatting the risk of cavities. Fluoride can also be found in certain mouthwashes. Dentists can prescribe stronger fluoride toothpastes and mouthwashes.
  4. Look after dentures. Follow the instructions given to you at the time you received your dentures. Keeping them clean and food-free can prevent stains, bad breath and swollen gums. Dentures should be brushed once a day with denture cleaner and denture steriliser can be used at night once dentures have been taken out. Dentures should also be comfortable, if they cause pain or irritation it’s best to contact your dentist.
  5. Drink plenty of fluids. Dry mouth is common with lots of medication and medical conditions. Extra water can help with dehydration as well as reducing sugary, caffeinated and alcoholic drinks.
  6. Eat a well-balanced diet. Snacks and drinks that are high in starch and sugars could be replaced with those that help your teeth and bones stay strong, including those high in calcium.
  7. Visit the dentist regularly. Dentists are key when it comes to identifying problems and diseases early. If accessing the dentist is becoming a challenge, reach out to them to see if they offer community visits where they can come to you.