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4 Tips for Helping a Senior Adult Keep Their Oral Health

4TipsforHelpingaSeniorAdultKeepTheirOralHealth

By the time a person passes the half-century mark, they've done quite a bit of living: their share of ups and downs, successes and failures, and joys and sorrows. But while aging can take its toll on their physical and cognitive health, older adults still have much to offer from their life experience. It often falls to other family members to keep them in the best health possible—including their oral health.

Helping an older adult maintain healthy teeth and gums is crucial to their overall well-being. So in recognition of Older Americans Month in May, here are 4 tips for helping an older family member keep a healthy mouth.

Support their daily hygiene. Age-related physical and cognitive impairment can make the simple tasks of brushing and flossing much more difficult. You can help by providing an older family member with tools that make it easier for them to clean their teeth, like larger handled toothbrushes or water flossers. In some cases, you may have to perform their hygiene tasks for them, but it's worth the effort to reduce their risk of dental disease.

Watch for "dry mouth." If an older person complains of their mouth being constantly dry, take it seriously. Chronic dry mouth is a sign of not enough saliva, which could make them more prone to dental disease. The likely culprits, especially for older adults, are prescription medications, so speak with their doctor about alternatives. You can also encourage them to use saliva boosters or to drink more water.

Ask for oral cancer screens. Ninety percent of oral cancer occurs in people over the age of 40, with the risk increasing with age. Be sure, then, to ask for an oral cancer screen during their dental visits, presuming it's not already being done. Screenings usually involve visual and tactile examinations of the inside of the mouth and the sides of the neck, looking for unusual lesions, swelling or discolorations. The sooner oral cancer is found, the better the chances of a successful treatment outcome.

Have dental work checked. An older person may have acquired various forms of dental work like bridges, implants or removable dentures. Because these play an important role in their oral health, you should have their dental work checked routinely. This is particularly true for dentures, which can lose their fit and comfort over time. Dental work in need of repair makes dental function more difficult and can increase their risk of disease.

Given the depth of responsibility in caring for an older adult, it's easy to let some things slip by the wayside. Their oral health shouldn't be one of them—giving it the priority it deserves will pay dividends in their health overall.

If you would like more information about oral care for an older adult, please contact us or schedule a consultation. To learn more, read the Dear Doctor magazine articles “Aging & Dental Health” and “Dry Mouth.”

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  • "a month ago
    Travis Watson was truly the most kind, compassionate, honest, and detail-oriented dentist that I have ever been to. I have had work done by at least a half dozen or more dentists over the years, and Dr. Watson was BY FAR the most compassionate, kind, and caring when it came to my procedure and dental work needs. I couldn't possibly recommend. Dr. Watson and Pinon Hills Dental any higher. Five stars isn't enough. Dr. Watson should get 10 stars. If there was a Nobel Prize for dentistry, Dr. Watson should win it--and many times over. If you're considering a dentist in the Farmington area--or beyond (I came from Durango)--Dr. Watson should be your choice. Beyond belief, you'll actually look forward going to the dentist. I'm forever grateful for Dr. Watson's skill, compassion, and kindness--and you will be too."
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  • "I visited Pinion Hills Dental for the first time yesterday to get a cleaning and check up. I have nothing but great things to say about the experience that I had and quality of service. I had a great interaction with everyone involved from the front desk, to the hygienist Yvette and Dr. Watson himself. Highly recommend!"
    Colby Gibson-Google Oct 2020
  • "The staff here are very friendly and accommodating. I was in a decent amount of pain so they moved my appointment up and kept me from hurting for an extra 5 days. Dr. Watson personally called me to check on me and make sure things we're ok. It means a lot that he didn't have an assistant or secretary make that call."
    Kev Sharp-GoogleNov2020
  • "Dr. Watson is absolutely incredible in every way! We have always been treated with the utmost respect, compassion and expertise. He has gone out of his way to treat our family in emergency situations. In each instant, he provided amazing and excellent care when other dentists could not. He is always positive and reassuring in all situations! His office staff, dental assistants and hygienists are incredible in every way! The atmosphere in the office is peaceful, positive and upbeat! We highly recommend Pinon Hills!!!"
    Angela McDaniels- GoogleDec2020
  • "The politeness and care of the dentist, dental hygienist and the staff wowed me today. Dr. Watson and Dr. Weber really have a vested interest in your teeth. They are very concerned to the point that I brush and floss so I won't let them down.
    You never feel belittled by anyone in the office and they only encourage you when you need to do a little better. I used to worry about going to the dentist but now I know I have people who want the best for me in the doctors office."
    Kevin Jaramillo