Aging Successfully: Oral hygiene and aging

According to the United States Census Bureau, the number of senior citizens in America is expected to reach 98 million by 2060. This will be approximately 24 percent of the entire U.S. population.

Already there is a definite correlation between oral health and economic conditions within our senior population. Older Americans who lack dental insurance, or are disabled, home-bound or are in care facilities, have poor oral health compared to those who have dental insurance and have better overall care.

This includes the seniors with the ability to care for themselves and seniors with family members who are actively involved in their loved ones care.

Some studies indicate there may be a correlation between oral health and genetics.

The main oral health problems senior citizens deal with are untreated tooth decay, gum disease and oral cancers. Most older adults take prescription and over-the-counter medications which can cause dry mouth. This reduces saliva flow which in turn increases the risk of cavities.

Interestingly enough, seniors with chronic diseases, such as diabetes or heart diseases may be more prone to gum disease, yet are less likely to receive appropriate dental care.

If we begin now to be more pro-active with our oral health, and are aware of potential concerns as we age, we can reduce our own risk of poor oral health as senior citizens.

In addition to the basics of good oral hygiene like brushing our teeth regularly, flossing our teeth, and regular visits to our dentist there is more we can do.

The most important thing is to be aware of are any changes in our mouth or throat such as a lump, a red spot or numbness.

The second most important thing is to develop healthy habits such as healthy eating, reducing the amount of sugar-laced foods, stop using tobacco products and drinking alcohol in moderation. Too much alcohol, even wine, has led to oral cancers.

Additional things we can do is drink plenty of quality water and receive enough sleep.

Keeping any disease, such as diabetes, under control can improve oral health. Tooth enamel is made from minerals, mainly calcium, and eating mineral-rich foods strengthens the enamel, and can help neutralize the acids on our teeth from other foods. Consult with your doctor or dentist about taking additional supplements.

If you have dental issues where chewing healthy foods is challenging, here are a few suggestions which may help. Blanch raw vegetables such as carrots and celery, to make them softer and easier to chew. Grind nuts and seeds in a blender or food processor before adding them to cereals, yogurts or other foods. Marinating and slow-cooking meats makes them more tender and easier to chew.

As a side note, if you or a loved one wears dentures, the plates can be relined for much less than the cost of new dentures, and in a shorter time-frame.

I find it interesting how the requirements for improving our oral health are basically the same as for improving our overall health.

Allow me to encourage you to begin now to become even more pro-active in improving your overall dental hygiene which will enable you to age more successfully.

We welcome your thoughts. Email us at I personally reply to every email.

Crystal Linn is a multi-published author and an award-winning poet. When not writing, or teaching workshops, she enjoys reading a good mystery, hiking, and sailing with friends and family. See