How to maintain your oral health as you age

Your body and how you care for yourself will continue to change as you get older. Some of these changes you may expect like needing to stretch more or use reading glasses. Others are less well-known, like the way your nutritional needs can evolve over time or how medications may influence your day-to-day life.

No two people are the same, but many of us to share common experiences as we get older. 

Common oral health issues for older people

Fewer calories, more nutrients

Calorie needs vary from person to person based on factors like size, activity level, and other health needs. You will also need fewer calories as you age because you’ll have less muscle mass and a reduced metabolism. But the foods you do eat should be nutrient-rich.

Weakened teeth and gums

As you age, your gums may recede, tooth enamel can wear down, and you are more likely to experience dry mouth. All of these changes can make you more vulnerable to bacteria, cavities, gum disease, and other oral health issues.

Side effects from medication

Older adults are most likely to take one or more prescription medications. No matter what they’re for, it’s important to watch out for side effects – such as dry mouth, which can cause buildup of mouth bacteria and oral health issues.

Keep your smile healthy by brushing twice daily, flossing once, and visiting the dentist regularly. Eating a nutrient-rich and low-sugar diet will also help.

Aging and nutritional needs

Protein helps combat age-related muscle loss. In addition to lean meat, eggs, and dairy products like cottage cheese and low-fat milk, protein can be found in beans, peas, and lentils.

Vitamin D helps your body absorb calcium, which keeps your bones and tooth enamel strong. It can be found in egg yolks, salmon, and tuna.

Fiber helps aid digestions, which slows down alongside your metabolism as you age. It can also help with issues like high cholesterol and high blood sugar.

Vitamin B12 supports your red blood cell count and is associated with a lower risk of gum disease. It’s found in beef, tuna, dairy, and eggs.

If you’re concerned about not consuming enough of the right vitamins and minerals, speak with your physician about your diet and daily nutrition. 

How to avoid complications

Listen to the experts

Always take medication as prescribed by your dentist, physician, or any other medical professional you see. Reach out to them if you experience any persistent side effects.

Reducing side effects of medication

Older adults are more likely to experience adverse reactions to prescription medication, which may also influence their diet, appetite, and oral health. Medication side effects can include dry mouth – which contributes to bad breath, cavities, and tooth decay – or feeling disoriented, which could cause you to miss a meal or forget to brush your teeth.

Keep a list

Mixing otherwise safe medicines can create unexpected issues. Keep a list of all the medications you take, including over-the-counter medicines, vitamins, and supplements. Any health expert you see can use this list to help you avoid mixing medicines that don’t interact well.

Communicate any issues

Write down any complications you have, such as persistent dry mouth, so you can discuss them with your dentist or physician later.

Eat right, feel right, and age healthier

We all face changes to our oral health and overall well-being as we get older, but a little extra care with your diet and medication can help you take control, combat those issues, and make the most of your golden years.