Avoid tobacco. In addition to the general health risks posed by tobacco use, smokers have seven times the risk of developing periodontal disease compared to non-smokers. Tobacco used in any form—cigarettes, cigars,pipes, and smokeless (chewing) tobacco—increases the risk for periodontal disease,oral and throat cancers, and oral fungal infection (candidiasis). Chewing tobacco containing sugar also increases the risk of cavities.
Limit alcohol. Drinking a high amount of alcoholic beverages is a risk factor for oral and throat cancers. Alcohol and tobacco used together are the primary risk factors for these cancers.
Drink fluoridated water and use fluoride toothpaste. Fluoride provides protection against dental decay at all ages.
It wasn’t so long ago that people just assumed they would lose their teeth in later life. But today, many people still have some or all of their natural teeth far into their “seasoned” years. Maintaining good oral health in our later years is extremely important, not only for keeping our natural teeth in place but also in regard to our overall health and quality of life.
Oral health problems in later years can lead to pain and discomfort, teeth loss, gum disease, difficulty eating, difficulty speaking, as well as oral cancers and may be associated with other serious medical conditions you might not expect, such as diabetes, heart disease, stroke, and respiratory disease.
There’s a lot you can do to maintain and even improve your oral health in later life. The following tips are provided by the Centers for Disease Control And Prevention (CDC) specifically for people in their later years.
Get dental care prior to having cancer chemotherapy or radiation to the head or neck. These therapies can damage or destroy oral tissues and can result in severe irritation of the oral tissues and mouth ulcers, loss of salivary function, rampant tooth decay, and destruction of bone.
Practice good oral hygiene. Careful tooth brushing and flossing to reduce dental plaque can help prevent cavities as well as periodontal disease.
Pay attention to changes in taste and smell. Such changes should not be considered signs of aging, but should be a sign to seek professional care.
See your dentist on a regular basis, even if you have no natural teeth and wear dentures. Professional care helps maintain the overall health of your teeth and mouth and provides early detection of pre-cancerous or cancerous lesions.
If medications you are taking produce a dry mouth, ask your doctor if there are other drugs that can be substituted. If dry mouth cannot be avoided, drink plenty of water, chew sugarless gum, and avoid tobacco and alcohol.