Every day we present our faces to the world, speaking and smiling, and placing the results of our dental hygiene and care right in the spotlight. How would our smiles hold up? Good question, especially since like it or not, extra care is required to keep senior smiles bright.
The five basic steps to good oral hygiene don’t change as we age, but we do need to make sure we practice them. So read the details below for a good review:
- brushing: do this at least twice a day and if possible after every meal, brushing for about 2 minutes. This removes plaque, a film of bacteria that stays on teeth and can cause cavities. Squirt a small amount of fluoride toothpaste on a soft toothbrush or an electric toothbrush and place the brush against the teeth at a 45-degree angle to the gum line. Using small circular motions clean one tooth at a time, keeping the tips of the bristles against the gum line. Don’t press so that the bristles lie flat and are unable to reach into spaces between teeth. Clean all surfaces making sure bristles get into grooves and crevices. Also stroke the tongue to remove more bacteria and freshen breath. Get a new toothbrush every three months.
- flossing: do this once a day to get rid of food and plaque that the toothbrush can’t reach. Food can harden into plaque that only a dentist can remove. An 18-inch strip of floss works well, wound around the middle fingers of each hand with a one-inch section open for flossing. Work the floss between the teeth being careful not to push too hard against the gums. Move the floss against the tooth and around the gum line and don’t forget to floss behind the back teeth.
- eating, snacking: a healthy diet low in sugar and sticky sweets and candy insures healthier teeth. Avoid snacking of sweets if unable to brush afterwards. Or snack on what some call detergent snacks—foods that help clean the teeth as they are eaten, like apples, raw carrots, celery, and popcorn. A good suggestion is to make one of these the final food of the meal if unable to brush after eating. Note: aging teeth and jaws might not handle a whole apple and certainly should avoid cracking on hard candies. The apple can be cut into smaller bits and fresh corn cut from the cob.
- rinsing: using an antibacterial mouth rinse can also reduce bacteria that enable plaque and gum disease says the American Dental Association (ADA). Fluoride mouth rinses reduce and prevent tooth decay.
- dental checkups: aging teeth and gums require a professional checkup every six months even though Medicare and supplemental healthcare plans for Medicare clients don’t usually cover dental visits. (See below.) Teeth need to be cleaned to prevent gum disease and many medications that seniors take can cause dry mouth that also increases the chance of gum disease. The following symptoms should be checked out by a dentist without delay—bleeding gums; red, swollen, or tender gums; persistent bad breath or bad taste in the mouth; receding gums; formation of deep pockets between teeth and gums; loose or shifting teeth; changes in the way teeth fit together upon biting down; and finally the improper fit of all dentures.
Just as a primary care doc helps with all health concerns affecting the body, a dentist can provide advise for oral health concerns. These might include: darkening enamel, loose teeth, ill-fitting dentures, bad breath, dry mouth, loss of taste and inability to use a regular toothbrush or floss. Dentists can provide solutions and suggest different toothbrushes and floss implements to insure that oral care is done properly. Some dentists recommend rinsing the mouth with vinegar to remove stains, whiten teeth and fight bacteria. Brushing with baking soda once a week is also suggested as it can whiten and removes stains. Just don’t swallow because of increasing salt/sodium intake. And practice flossing without a mirror so flossing can be done in the car, a restaurant bathroom or even at the airport!
Finally, if smoking or use of tobacco in any form is a habit—quit! Mouth cancers and lung cancers stem from smoking, not to mention the yellowing of teeth and the lack of oral hygiene that smoking promotes. You want your smile to be brighter and to set everything straight!
As mentioned above, in general dental visits are not covered by Medicare and most supplemental healthcare plans–so here is a suggestion:
Brighter.com is a free online service, an alternative to dental insurance. As a health advocate for its members, Brighter.com fully vets the dentists in their program and pre-negotiates rates for over 500 dental procedures performed by these member dentists. You can save an average of 50% on dental care and up to 70% on dental cleanings versus the typical price paid without insurance. Go to Brighter.com and put your zip code on the homepage—dentists will be listed according to location, price (both regular prices and their new Brighter prices), education, credentials, patient reviews, photos, videos, appointment schedules and more. Brighter.com provides all the information necessary to make an educated decision about your dental care. Appointments can be booked online and Brighter.com guarantees 100% satisfaction.
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