Oral Health Information for Older Adults

The percentage of older adults who have kept their natural teeth has increased steadily during the past several decades. This trend is expected to continue, improving the oral health and quality of life of many older adults.

The leading causes of tooth loss in older adults and periodontal (gum) disease and tooth decay. Factors that may put older adults at higher risk of dental problems include poor general health status, reduced ability to heal, medications, depression, decline in memory, dry mouth, functional impairments, hormonal changes, and changes in financial status or income.

Every tooth in the mouth plays an important role in speaking, chewing, and maintaining the proper position of other teeth. People with loose or missing teeth or those with ill-fitting dentures often have limited diets, since eating some foods, like fruits and vegetables, is difficult and painful. Fortunately, you can prevent most oral and tooth disease by keeping your mouth clean and healthy.

What You Should Do

  • Brush your teeth and gums with a soft bristle toothbrush at least twice a day with fluoride toothpaste. Use dental floss daily to clean between your teeth. (more)
  • Drink fluoridated water. (more)
  • Eat a balanced diet and limit between meal snacks. Avoid sugars and starches when snacking and limit the number of snacks eaten throughout the day. (more)
  • Visit your dentist regularly. Even if you do not have any teeth, regular dental visits are very important to keep your mouth healthy and check for any problems. An oral exam can provide early detection of pre-cancerous or cancerous lesions.
  • See your dentist right away if you notice loose teeth, bleeding when you brush, red and swollen gums, or any other unusual changes.
  • Keep your dentures clean and well fit. Remove your dentures while you are sleeping.
  • Avoid tobacco. (more)
  • Limit alcohol.
  • If you have dry mouth, talk to your doctor and dentist about your medications.
  • If you are a caretaker of an older adult, ensure that oral care is incorporated in daily general care.

Denture Care

Cleaning your dentures every day is one of the most important things you can do to help your smile keep its attractive appearance. If clean your dentures regularly, you will prevent staining and denture odor.

  • Dentures can break if they are dropped. Fill the sink with water and clean your dentures over the sink in case they slip out of your hands.
  • Rinse your dentures thoroughly with cool or warm water to remove loose food particles. Do not use hot water because it can damage your dentures.
  • Brush all surfaces thoroughly with a denture cleaning paste and denture brush or a soft-bristled toothbrush. Do not use toothpaste, bleach, vinegar, soap, or another type of cleaning product unless directed by your dentist. Do not use a brush with hard/stiff bristles, because they can damage your dentures.
  • Rinse dentures with running water under the faucet to remove all of the cleaning paste.
  • At night, soak your dentures in a cleanser recommended by your dentist.
  • Brush your gums and tongue with a soft-bristled regular toothbrush to remove plaque and stimulate circulation. This will keep your mouth clean and healthy.