Your Oral Health

Senior’s Oral Health

As you enter your golden years, your oral health concerns change along with your body. Here’s everything you need to know to keep your smile healthy and bright.

“Oral health in long-term care facilities” (NY Times)
A very comprehensive discussion of the reality facing Long Term Care clients and their families.

If You Wear Dentures

Dentures can do fabulous things for a smile that’s been compromised by the loss of teeth. Here are ways to take care of your dentures:

  • See your dentist/denturist regularly;
  • Rinse your mouth and dentures after each meal;
  • Clean your dentures thoroughly once a day. Use a denture brush or a soft toothbrush as well as a denture cleaner rather than toothpaste;
  • Brush your gums and tongue with a soft toothbrush each time you clean your dentures. Rinse your mouth with water. The healthier the gums are, the better your dentures will fit;
  • Avoid using pads, liners or denture adhesives to improve the fit of your dentures;
  • See your dentist/denturist if your dentures are loose
  • Avoid using very hot or very cold water on your dentures, and don’t let them dry out. Extremes in temperature can cause your dentures to warp; and
  • Remove your dentures at night. Put them in a container filled with water to give your gums a needed rest. If you find something that looks suspicious that does not heal in 14 days, contact your dentist immediately.

Common Misconceptions About Dentures

Myth: My dentures will last forever.

Fact: While dentures are durable, they are not any more permanent than a pair of eyeglasses. Even with proper care, your dentures can lose their natural appearance and chewing ability due to brushing and age. They can become warped or dry out if placed in hot water. Dropping them even a few inches can break a tooth or the denture base. To help increase their lifespan, place them in a container of denture-cleaning solution at night. Regardless, you’ll still need to brush them. It’s best to use a brush designed for dentures as well as a denture cleaner rather than toothpaste, because some may be too abrasive for dentures.

Myth: Once you have dentures, you don’t need to see a dentist any more.

Fact: Since your mouth is continually changing, you should continue to see your dentist regularly for oral examinations. Mouth tissue can show signs of disease, such as diabetes, that first display themselves in the mouth. Your dentist will check for signs of oral cancer, examine your gum ridges, tongue and jaw joints, as well as check your dentures. Looseness may be caused by tissue changes. Bad odour can be caused by absorption of fluid and bacteria. So keep scheduling those twice-yearly visits!

Myth: Everyone knows when you’re wearing dentures. It’s embarrassing.

Fact: This is only true if your dentures look unnatural or need re-fitting. Many of the “tell-tale” signs of dentures—clicking or slipping, unpleasant odour or stains—are actually signs of poor fit or improper home care. Regular dental exams and proper home care is the way to make sure your dentures look natural.

Myth: Denture wearers can’t eat normally or even speak properly.

Fact: Not true. If you develop speech or eating problems at any time, have your dentist check the fit of your dentures.

Myth: I have to use adhesives to make my dentures fit or I can’t wear them all day.

Fact: This is an especially dangerous myth. Dentures are made to fit precisely and usually do not require regular use of an adhesive for comfort. In emergencies, denture adhesives can be used to keep dentures stable, but prolonged use can mask infections and cause bone loss in the jaw. A denture that does not fit properly can cause irritation over a long period and may contribute to the development of sores and tumours. The only real solution is to see your dentist as soon as possible.

Myth: Dentures aren’t like natural teeth: they’re not affected by over-the-counter and prescription medications.

Fact: They’re more alike than you think. Drugs can affect how your dentures fit and wear. Certain medications can reduce the supply of saliva in your mouth, making it difficult to swallow or chew. Be sure to let your dentist know of any medications that you may take, even occasionally.

Myth: I can make my own denture repairs.

Fact: Do-it-yourself denture fixes can actually cause damage to your mouth. Improperly relined dentures can be bulky and cause pressure on the jaw and more rapid loss of jawbone. Do-it-yourself reliners can also irritate the soft tissues of your mouth. The handyman approach can ruin your dentures and may result in the need for a new denture.

Myth: I’ll be without teeth for days if I take my denture to the dentist for refitting or repair.

Fact: Actually, it should only be a couple of hours. Advancements in modern dentistry have made it possible for your dentist to reline or repair dentures quickly—often right in the office. If you let your dentist know that you are in need of a denture repair, the correction can frequently be made on the same day.

Myth: I know I should have my denture replaced, but I just don’t want to go through a long adjustment period again.

Fact: The first time is always the hardest. There will be some adjustment, but it will probably be shorter and easier than the first time. And it is important! Prolonged use of dentures that don’t fit properly can irritate your gums, tongue and cheek. It can even cause the ridges of your mouth to shrink to the point where it will almost be impossible to fit you with normal dentures. Your ability to chew may decrease, and your face may acquire deep aging lines and wrinkles. When you think about it, the temporary adjustment period isn’t so bad after all.

Myth: All dentures are the same. It makes sense to shop around and look for the lowest price.

Fact: A licensed dentist is best qualified to provide denture services. Before prescribing a denture, the dentist looks closely at your health history, performs an oral exam and carefully measures and prepares your mouth for your dentures. Dentists work closely with reputable dental laboratories, where trained technicians make your dentures to match your dentist’s specifications. Mail-order specials for self-fitting dentures are a waste of money and can cause serious oral health problems.

Now that you’ve got your facts straight, you’re ready to get fitted with a beautiful new smile by your dentist.

It’s just as important to eat nutritiously when you’re 70 as it is when you’re 17. So don’t let difficulties with chewing or other problems prevent you from maintaining a balanced diet. Here are some tips for eating nutritiously no matter how old you are:

  • For a meal that is inexpensive, easy to prepare and nutritious, make vegetable soup with meat and soup bones. This soup can provide many vitamins, protein, fibre and water.
  • If you need more fibre in your diet, but find it hard to chew raw fruits and vegetables, try cooked or wheat cereals, or cold, high fibre cereals for breakfast, and use whole-grained breads for sandwiches.
  • Don’t care for milk, but need more calcium? Try yogurt and hard cheeses, such as Swiss, Colby, Cheddar or add powdered dry milk to prepared or cooked dishes.

Now that you know how easy it is to keep your body fueled with nutritious foods, you can continue taking care of your body. For more information on how you can eat healthily no matter what your age, see your dentist.

As you get older, your body changes. Your mouth is no exception. Healthy teeth and gums are important to how you look and feel.

A healthy mouth makes it easy to enjoy the good things that life has to offer. You will be able to chew more easily, digest food better, and enjoy a wide variety of nutritious foods. Here are some details about the changes you can expect to see in your mouth and teeth, and some tips for maintaining a beautiful, youthful-looking smile no matter how old you get.

Discoloured Teeth

Is it getting harder to keep your teeth clean and white? That’s because plaque builds up faster and in greater amounts as you get older. Also, changes in dentin, the bone-like tissue that is under your enamel, may cause your teeth to appear slightly darker.

Reduced Saliva Flow

Are you plagued by a constant sore throat, burning sensation, problems speaking, difficulty swallowing, hoarseness or dry nasal passages? Then you probably suffer from dry mouth, a common problem that stems from reduced saliva flow. It is caused by certain medical disorders and is often a side effect of medications such as antihistamines, decongestants, painkillers and diuretics. Left untreated, dry mouth can damage your teeth. Without enough saliva to moisten your mouth, wash away food and neutralize the acids produced by plaque, extensive cavities can form. Your dentist can recommend various methods to restore moisture.

Loss of Appetite

Just not hungry anymore? Some people experience a decrease in their sense of taste and smell as they get older, which leads to a decrease in appetite. Also, certain medications and wearing dentures can lead to a decrease in your sense of taste. See Nutrition Tips.


Have you noticed that your teeth are more sensitive to the touch, and to hot and cold? You’re probably suffering from tooth root decay, a condition that most people over 50 suffer from. It occurs when receding gums, combined with an increase in gum disease, expose the roots of the teeth to plaque.

Decay around the edges of fillings is also common with older adults. Over the years, fillings may weaken and tend to crack and leak around the edges. Bacteria accumulate in these tiny crevices and cause acid to build up, which leads to decay.

Gum Disease

You’re probably among the three out of four adults who have some form of gum disease, the major cause of tooth loss among adults. The bacteria in your mouth thrive on the sugars and starches in the foods you eat, and create toxins that irritate the gums. Slowly, and often without pain, the gums detach from the teeth. If the gum disease is not treated, the supporting bone may dissolve and cause the teeth to loosen resulting in the need for surgical treatment of the gums and removal of teeth.

Luckily, most of these conditions are preventable. With regular, lifelong attention from your dentist, and consistent, thorough cleaning at home, your smile can remain gold-medal worthy throughout your life.

Taking care of your Natural Teeth

Has the twice-daily task of cleaning your teeth become a major frustration? Here are a few simple ideas that may make it easier for you to brush and floss:

  • Use a toothbrush with soft bristles all the same length;
  • Use a fluoride toothpaste;
  • Start with the toothbrush on your gums, and brush down on your top teeth and up on your bottom teeth;
  • With your toothbrush, very gently massage the area where the teeth meet the gums;
  • Gently brush your tongue and the inside of your cheeks;
  • After brushing, rinse your mouth with lukewarm water;
  • Floss every day;
  • See your dentist regularly;
  • Enlarge the handle of the toothbrush by attaching a sponge, rubber ball or bicycle-handle grip. You could also try winding an elastic bandage or adhesive tape around the handle;
  • If you find that a longer toothbrush handle would be helpful, try taping a popsicle stick or tongue depressor to the handle;
  • If you have trouble holding on to the brush, attach the brush to your hand with a large rubber, or elastic, band;
  • Tie dental floss into a loop for easier handling;
  • Another option is to use an electric toothbrush or commercial floss holder.

Keeping your mouth healthy shouldn’t be a struggle. If you find that these tips don’t solve your problem, see your dentist today. Your dentist will be able to provide a more customized solution for your specific situation.