A healthy smile looks great at any age.

No matter what age you are, you should be regularly brushing, flossing, and visiting your dentist. However, these oral hygiene staples become even more important as you age and your teeth and gums are exposed to more challenges over a longer period of time. Older adults need to pay special attention to their oral health and be proactive about taking advantage of the available tools and resources in order to continue to experience optimal oral health. With that in mind, here are some tips that you can follow to maintain your oral health as you get older.

Communicate with your doctor.

Your oral health and your overall health are closely linked and one can easily influence the other. Brushing and flossing are essential to controlling bacteria in your mouth. If bacteria reaches harmful levels, it can enter your respiratory and digestive tracts and cause infections throughout the body. In fact, periodontitis, which is characterized by inflammation and infection in the gums, is connected to cardiovascular disease. That’s right: poor oral health can actually affect your heart.

In addition, certain chronic diseases can make it more difficult to maintain and experience optimal oral health. Diabetes, HIV/AIDS, Alzheimer’s, and osteoporosis can reduce the body’s ability to fight infection and cause bone, gum, and tooth loss. If you suffer from any of these conditions, it is important to talk to your doctor about the best ways to protect your oral health.

Finally, a wide range of medications are associated with decreased saliva production, which creates an environment where bacteria will grow. Saliva plays an essential role in helping naturally rid the body of bacteria. Decongestants, antidepressants, painkillers, antihistamines, and other common medications can create a dry mouth so that saliva isn’t able to effectively wash away bacteria.

For these reasons, it is important to communicate with your doctor and your dentist about any health issues you are experiencing and be aware of how medications can affect your oral health. With the right knowledge, you can protect both your oral and overall health.

Be aware of inflammation and arthritis.

Certain diseases, such as arthritis, cause inflammation. When left untreated, inflammation can lead to infection and gradually spread throughout the body. Unfortunately, this means that people with rheumatoid arthritis are eight times more likely to also suffer from gum disease. Arthritis is an autoimmune disease that causes the body to attack its own tissue and joints even when there isn’t an actual threat. Triggering the immune system in this way not only causes pain, but leads to harmful inflammation. While you might not associate arthritis with oral health, there is a connection that you should be aware of as you try to minimize your risks and maintain your health.

Schedule extra cleanings and checkups.

The general rule of thumb is that you should visit the dentist twice a year for a cleaning and checkup. However, if you suffer from diabetes, heart disease, arthritis, or any other diseases that are known to affect your oral health, you should talk to your dentist about scheduling more frequent visits. Additional cleanings will not only help control bacteria, they will also help to identify any potential problems early on before they have a chance to develop more fully. Work with your dentist to create a plan of action that best suits your health needs.

Invest in a waterpik.

Waterpiks are a great way to take your home oral health regime to the next level. A waterpik uses a stream of pressurized water to remove food, plaque and bacteria from between teeth and below the gumline. The gentle, pulsating action is great for people with braces and temporary bridges that create hard-to-reach areas. While flossing provides some of the same benefits, waterpiks are more effective in removing plaque. In addition, waterpik users are more likely to take the time to use the tool than the average flosser, which also helps contribute to better results. This simple and easy-to-use tool can allow anyone to gain better control over plaque and bacteria.

Make the switch to an electric toothbrush.

Still using a traditional toothbrush to clean your teeth? It’s time to make the switch to an electric toothbrush. These tools provide superior plaque removal and create a fail-proof system for effectively cleaning your teeth. The vibrating, rotating and oscillating motion of the brush head works to provide a more thorough cleaning that covers every surface of the tooth and breaks food and plaque free from teeth and crevices.

Most electric toothbrushes also come with a timer that lets you know when it is time to switch to a different area of your mouth. You can divide your mouth into quadrants and move to a new section every thirty seconds until the two-minute timer signals. This is an easy and convenient way to make sure you don’t miss any teeth and get in your full two minutes of brushing.

If you have sensitive teeth, look for options that come with several different speeds so that you can operate at a lower speed that is more gentle on your teeth. Built-in pressure sensors can also alert you when you are pressing too hard, which can help preserve both your gums and your tooth enamel.

There are a wide variety of models on the market that are designed to meet your needs. Talk with your dentist about which electric toothbrush will be best for you based on your personal oral health challenges.

Maintaining oral health can become more challenging as you age and it can be further complicated by other health issues and medications.. Fortunately, there are steps you can take to continue to enjoy optimal oral health as you get older. Contact the team at Acorn Dental to make an appointment to get answers to all your questions. We can help you and your family enjoy a healthier smile.