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Oral Health

Grow Older with Good Oral Health

You can enjoy good oral health at any age.

 Smiling Family

As you get older, your mouth health can be affected by aging, diseases, or medicines you take. Prevention is the best way to keep your mouth healthy at any age. This includes brushing and flossing every day and visiting the dentist regularly. A healthy mouth is important for a healthy body and mind.

Older adults have some of the highest rates of tooth decay.

 No donuts for me

You can get more tooth decay when you:

  • Find it hard to clean your teeth.
  • Choose sugary foods and drinks more often because of changes in your taste.
  • Have a dry mouth because of a disease or medicines you take.
  • Have roots that aren’t covered by gums.

The good news is you can prevent tooth decay. Brush two times a day with fluoride toothpaste, floss every day, drink water with fluoride, and limit sugary foods and drinks. And make sure to visit your dentist regularly.

Gum disease doesn’t have to be part of getting older.

Big smile

As you get older, it’s easier to get gum disease and harder to get rid of it. Gum disease is caused by plaque left on your teeth and gums. Having a dry mouth, using tobacco, and drinking alcohol can make gum disease worse. For healthy gums, brush and floss daily, eat a variety of healthy foods each day, and get your teeth cleaned regularly. Also, avoid using tobacco and limit how much alcohol you drink. If you have signs of a dry mouth, ask your health professional for help.

Medicine can affect your oral health.

Discussion with pharmacist

Medicine that is prescribed to you or that you buy off the shelf can have side effects. Medicines include vitamins, minerals, and herbal supplements. Side effects can be bleeding or enlarged gums, changes to taste, mouth sores, and dry mouth. Tell your health professional the names of all the medicines you take. Keeping your mouth clean and healthy is the first step to coping with side effects. See your dentist regularly and any time you have a problem in your mouth.

A healthy mouth and good nutrition are key to aging well.

Elderly couple eating

Mouth and teeth problems can affect how well you chew and swallow your food, and these problems can limit your food choices. This means you may not get the vitamins, minerals, and fibre you need for good health. As you age your taste becomes less sensitive, and you may want to use more sugar and salt. This puts you at risk for general health problems. Sugar also puts you at higher risk for tooth decay. For healthy eating choices, follow Canada’s Food Guide.

Good oral health helps you feel good about yourself at any age.

Happy elderly people

Good oral health helps with things you do every day, like eating and speaking. But it also helps you feel confident. Mouth problems like an infection can cause you pain. Other mouth problems like bad breath, trouble eating, and worries about how your teeth look could make you feel embarrassed. This can lead to feeling alone or depressed. Your healthcare team can help you deal with mouth problems so you can feel good about yourself and enjoy your life.

Others can help you keep your mouth clean.

Nurse helping oler person

You need to clean teeth, gums, and dentures twice a day to remove plaque (bacteria). If cleaning your mouth is hard for you, ask your dental health professional for helpful ideas. At home, family members can remind you to clean your teeth or clean them for you. If you live in continuing care help is available for cleaning your teeth twice a day.

Regular dental visits are good for your health and your budget.

Elderly man at dentist

Visiting your dentist every year is good for your health and your bank account. Fixing problems in your mouth as soon as possible stops problems from getting worse, which can save you money. Getting dental care is harder when you’re on a fixed income or don’t have dental benefits. Ask your dentist about payment plans or where you can buy private dental insurance. Low-income seniors can get help through the Alberta Dental and Optical Assistance for Seniors Program.

Current as of: February 25, 2019

Author: Provincial Oral Health Office, Alberta Health Services