April is National Oral Health Month in Canada. Good oral care is especially important for older adults, who are more vulnerable to conditions such as gum disease, dry mouth and sensitive teeth.
Here are eight ways to take good care of your oral health and enjoy better overall health:
1. Take care of your gums. More than half of Canadian seniors have gum disease, says the Canadian Medical Association Journal. To prevent or slow the progression of gum disease, the Ontario Dental Association (ODA) recommends brushing and flossing twice daily, using toothpaste containing fluoride, eating healthy foods, and avoiding tobacco.
2. Sip water to relieve dry mouth. Certain medications and dehydration may cause dry mouth, which can affect chewing, speaking, swallowing and taste, says the Ontario Dental Hygienists’ Association (ODHA). To help ease dry mouth, sip water regularly, chew sugarless gum or use oral lubricants available over the counter.
3. Ease pain from sensitive teeth. Cavities, gum disease and worn tooth enamel can all cause tooth sensitivity. The Canadian Dental Association (CDA) recommends using a soft-bristled toothbrush, and cutting down on acidic foods and drinks, like fruit juice and wine.
4. Fight bacteria harder with diabetes. Diabetes reduces your body’s ability to fight bacteria, so preventing tooth decay and gum disease is especially important. Managing your blood sugar helps prevent cavities, says the Mayo Clinic, which can result from higher levels of sugars and starches causing plaque to form and wear away at your teeth. Regular brushing and flossing removes plaque and tartar, helping to prevent gum disease.
5. Practice good daily denture care. Clean dentures daily to prevent gum irritation or bad breath. Use a toothbrush or denture brush and denture cleaner, or mild soap and water, says the ODA. Always take dentures out at night to give your mouth a chance to rest.
6. Clean implants gently. Implants aren’t as strong as your natural teeth. Brush and floss implants daily, but very carefully, advises the CDA. Brush all sides of the implant gently and be gentle with the floss where the implant meets the gum.
7. Screen for oral cancer. Regular dental visits can help diagnose any possible problems early. Between visits, check your mouth for red or white patches, sores that don’t heal, swelling or changes in tissue colour, says ODHA.
8. Eat healthy foods. Healthy, unprocessed, nutrient-rich foods help the body fight oral or other infections, says the CDA. Limit sweets and brush your teeth after consuming sugary drinks or food.