A trip to the dentist isn’t top of the list for most people, but it is a necessary evil at least once a year and perhaps more often as we get older. In the interim between dental checkups, there are lots of things we can all do to help ensure the next visit isn’t too traumatic!

When it comes to senior teeth and oral health, often the issue isn’t so much to do with dental decay but rather other unfavourable oral hygiene conditions. Like bleeding gums, receding gums, dry mouth, bad breath and loss of our taste buds leading to an enhanced sweet tooth which as you know leads to cavities.

Most of the aforementioned conditions can be ameliorated at home on a daily basis in advance of your annual visit to the dentist. However, they are not a substitution for that all important dental appointment. We all know that both our dentist and dental hygienist play a key role in helping us maintain our teeth and a healthy, happy mouth.

On that note, let’s open wide and take a look at some of the problems that can ruin our smiles and what to do.

7 Problems & Some Easy Solutions to Fix Them

1. Bleeding Gums

This condition usually indicates an excess of plaque buildup on your teeth that in turn causes your gums to become inflamed. Not only do bleeding gums mean potential tooth loss, they also can potentially lead to heart disease and Alzheimer’s. To avoid this condition, brush at least twice a day for a minimum of two minutes. Use dental floss regularly or a small interdental brush to get between your teeth once a day. Follow up with an antibacterial rinse.

2. Arthritis & Other Physical Issues

Yes, you read that right. For many seniors, the simple act of brushing their teeth can cause them significant pain due to dexterity and mobility problems brought on by arthritis in their hands or shoulders or neck. The solution is to switch to an electric toothbrush. If you still prefer an old-fashioned brush, try to find one with a larger handle or wrap a face cloth around the handle to make it larger and easier to grip.

3. Receding Gums

If your teeth are beginning to look like fangs (more elongated) then perhaps you’re brushing them too hard with a toothbrush that’s also too hard. Use a soft bristle brush, and gently clean your teeth using an up and down motion. Think of the motion as massaging your gums, not scrubbing them.

4. A New Craving for the Sweet Stuff

Did you know that we humans begin to lose some of our 10,000 taste buds after we turn 50? The consequences are that we start to crave foods and drinks with more intense flavours, and that includes sweets. And the more times you expose your teeth to sugary foods, the more chance that your teeth are exposed to a “bacteria feeding frenzy”, according to Judith Jones, spokesperson for the American Dental Association.

5. That Old Bugaboo: Cavities

You’d think that after surviving the ‘cavity-prone’ years of childhood there’d be nowhere else left to fit a filling in. Certainly I find it astonishing that occasionally I get a cavity since every tooth in my head has been filled to capacity at this point in my life! But sadly, decay defers to no one, even us seniors.

Apparently, nearly one in five adults 65 years and older have untreated tooth decay. And the reason isn’t always too many candies and sweets, it’s due to dry mouth and receding gums. Your dentist may recommend a fluoride rinse for you to use at home if this is a condition you’re experiencing as you get older. Or they may apply a fluoride paste or varnish while you’re in the chair!

6. Dry Mouth Syndrome

As we age, we may experience less saliva production in our mouths which leads to a condition known as dry mouth, which can lead to various tooth and gum diseases.

Depending on the medications you take, the more likely the chances are you could experience dry mouth. Some culprits include, but are not limited to, antidepressants, antihistamines, meds for high blood pressure and anticholinergics. To combat this condition try sipping on water throughout the day or chewing sugar-free gum.

7. And Finally, We All Dread It—Bad Breath!

No one wants bad breath and a solution to combating it is to make tongue scraping part of your oral hygiene routine. Morning and night. You can either buy a tongue scraper tool or simply brush your tongue with your toothbrush to help remove that white layer on your tongue that harbours bacteria that causes bad breath. Also, a rigorous cleaning and brushing routine combined with flossing will help alleviate any malodorous breath caused by food particles left between teeth even after brushing.

Diet also plays a role so if you’re experiencing really bad breath, consider what you’re eating. Bad breath can also signify other health issues so if yours is chronic, seek a professional opinion.

When Is Your Next Trip to the Dentist?

There are no set rules as to how often you should take a trip to your dentist. The general recommendation is once a year, but if you have less than excellent oral hygiene habits, have gum disease, diabetes or cardiovascular disease you may be encouraged by your dentist to visit every six months or even more frequently. We encourage you to get professional advice to find out what schedule is best for maintaining your mouth!