Few people enjoy a trip to the dentist. There’s a reason we compare an unpleasant, difficult experience to “pulling teeth.” But no matter how awful it is to get a cavity filled, many people struggle to keep up with daily dental hygiene routines. Seniors are at a greater risk than any other age group, as 96 percent have had a cavity, and one in five have untreated tooth decay. Two thirds of seniors suffer from gum disease, and many have experienced tooth loss.
The COVID-19 crisis has made it more difficult than ever for seniors to get professional dental care. For seniors already facing mobility issues and a lack of transportation, restricted hours, and changing business practices are just one more hurdle to overcome. It can be very difficult for seniors to take good care of their teeth without help from a family member, caregiver, or professional.
Poor Dental Care Leads To Many Problems
Though we may shudder at the thought of a dentist’s drill, letting dental care slide at home can cause more than just cavities. Bad dental hygiene can lead to a variety of issues:
- Reduced sense of taste.
- Tooth discoloration or decay.
- Heart disease.
- Dry mouth.
- Denture-induced stomatitis.
With such serious consequences for poor dental care, it’s clear that seniors must do all they can to keep their teeth and gums healthy. However, almost half of all seniors have arthritis, which makes holding a toothbrush or using floss painful. And given that many seniors have trouble with mobility, getting to regular appointments can be difficult. When seniors cannot maintain their dental care habits, other problems soon arise. A caregiver’s assistance with dental hygiene does more than maintain a senior’s healthy smile. Proper tooth-brushing, flossing, and transportation to dental appointments prevents seniors from running into dangerous complications down the line.
Flossing daily and brushing teeth twice a day with a fluoride toothpaste can help cut down on potential issues. However, there are many more ways to maintain dental health than frequent cleaning, and one key element is in the food you eat.
Diet Can Hamper (Or Bolster) Dental Health
Eating well is always a challenge, and seniors often face unique barriers. As taste naturally degrades with age, it can be tempting for seniors to abandon healthy food options in favor of salty, artificially-flavored snacks. Though they often taste delicious, it comes at the cost of health. Seniors looking to get their dental hygiene in shape can start by looking at their eating habits.
Sugary Snacks are Worst
Most people know that sugar does a number on teeth. However, it’s not the sugar itself that damages teeth, but rather the oral bacteria which feed on it. As they eat the sugar in your mouth, these microorganisms release acids that quickly degrade enamel. Avoiding refined sugars is a great way to protect yourself from tooth decay. While candy and soda are an obvious source of sugar, many processed savory foods like chips may contain a large amount of sugar as well. Be sure to read nutrition labels and opt for low-sugar or naturally sweetened options when possible. Of course, just because a food’s sweetness comes from natural sources doesn’t negate its effect on your teeth. Moderation is key.
If you do splurge on the occasional slice of cake, there are steps to protect your teeth in the aftermath. Though it might seem natural to brush your teeth immediately after a sugary treat, this can actually do more harm than good. After eating something sweet, higher acid levels weaken your teeth, and a rigorous tooth-brushing can do even more damage. It’s best to wait 30 to 60 minutes for these acids to disperse before brushing your teeth again. Instead, drink lots of water to help clean your mouth out.
Of all the negative effects that candy can have on teeth, sticky candies can be the worst. Sticky foods adhere to teeth and are difficult to remove quickly, which increases the risk of cavities. Even dried fruit can come with similar risks. If you’re looking for something to satisfy your sweet-tooth, you might want to avoid the sticky taffy.
Other Foods to Avoid
Though sugary foods might be an obvious no-no when it comes to dental health, there are many more culprits to watch out for. Tough foods like jerky or hard candy can damage teeth weakened with age. Chewing ice is risky for the same reason. Any food high in acid, from carbonated soda to citrus, is virtually guaranteed to be hard on your teeth. In fact, a recent study showed that frequently drinking carbonated soda can be just as bad for your teeth as using crack cocaine. Water is the healthiest substitute, but juice is also a preferable option. But even natural fruit juice contains sugars, and following a glass of juice with a chaser of water is a good way to keep your teeth strong.
Healthy Habits Make Healthy Teeth
Once you’ve cut down on problem foods in your diet, it’s a good idea emphasize healthy ones. Many of the best foods for your teeth are also the best for your body in general. Vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and low-fat dairy are all excellent additions to a tooth-friendly diet. For help with picking out the best eating regimen, choosemyplate.gov can be a useful resource. You or your caregiver can navigate the site and set up a new menu plan that helps keep your teeth in top shape.
Aside from managing digital resources and meal-planning, caregivers can also pick up groceries for seniors and help out with cooking. Generations Home Care can also connect seniors with mobile resources to stay safe amidst the COVID-19 outbreak. From teeth-cleaning or connecting seniors with the tools they need, Generations caregivers are here to help promote good dental hygiene.
About Generations Home Care
Generations Home Care personalized in-home care and support services help those recovering from illness, injury, or surgery, living with a chronic disease, or dealing with the natural process of aging. We help people live a fuller, healthier, and independent life.
Our caregivers are trained in the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommended COVID-19 safety precautions. We offer levels of care ranging from companionship, to respite for the primary family caregiver, to homemaking services, to assistance with activities of daily living, to Alzheimer’s and dementia care. Generations Home Care takes a holistic approach and emphasizes a consistent, client-centered plan of care.
Our Specialty Services Include:
- Rehab or hospital-to-home programs for safe discharge.
- Short-term post-operative care during recovery periods.
- Non-medical life management services for people with chronic conditions.
- Veteran’s connection to care program.
- Live-in services and couples care.
If you’d like to learn more about how we can help you, contact us today at 602-595-HOME (4663) or by filling out the contact form on our website.