Senior citizens often have a lot to smile about. Their days of hard work and struggle are mostly over. Many of them are retired and can enjoy their children and grandchildren. They have been through the tough tasks of college and employment. Some can take the time to travel and see new places.

Oral problems experienced by seniors

But smiling isn’t always easy for seniors. Over time the elderly can experience one or more of these problems:

  • Darkened or yellower teeth. This is caused by the natural wearing down of the outer layer of enamel which protects the teeth and is a result of aging. However, it can be accelerated by the intake of such teeth-staining substances as tobacco and excessive coffee drinking.
  • Gum disease. According to WebMD, this can be “caused by plaque and is made worse by food left in teeth, poor-fitting bridges and dentures, poor diets, and certain diseases, such as anemia, cancer, and diabetes.”
  • Tooth loss. Weakening of the gums and the roots of the teeth can cause teeth to become loose or to fall out completely.
  • Weakened sense of taste. The taste buds on the tongue are one of the few parts of the human body that do not regenerate. Over time, food may not be as enjoyable to the elderly especially if a proper diet is not implemented early in life.

What seniors can do to maintain oral health?

Many seniors face the issues listed above—some of which will require emergency dental care. But there are some things that seniors can do to maintain good oral health and keep a bright smile through their golden years.

  • Get regular dental exams. A dentist will be able to notice problems before they start causing pain, discomfort, or disease.
  • Brush twice a day. This is especially important in the older years because the enamel that protects the teeth wears down over time. A vigorous brushing regimen lowers the chance of infection and disease. For anyone over 50, it is a good idea to start using toothpaste made for “sensitive” teeth and gums.
  • Floss once a day. Food lodged between teeth can be incredibly painful for an older person because of the sensitivity of the gums. Flossing regularly removes foreign elements from the mouth.
  • Use mouthwash daily. Swishing the mouth out with Listerine or another antiseptic mouthwash is one of the easiest things to do to keep the mouth of an elderly individual clean and free from germs and infection.

What about teeth-whiteners?

But what about whiteners. According to the American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry, “Americans pay dentists about $140 million dollars a year to whiten their teeth.” And, “Americans also spend millions more on over-the-counter teeth whiteners.” Are teeth-whiteners good for seniors? Yes and no.

Teeth-whiteners contain certain levels of peroxide, the chemical which actually does the work of whitening. However, a higher concentration of peroxide can produce gum burns, which is why many who seek teeth-whitening procedures opt to have it done by a dentist. Teeth-whitening procedures can also produce increased sensitivity in the teeth.

Perhaps a better solution than teeth-whitening procedures is to eat more foods that naturally whiten and strengthen teeth. Some of these foods include:

  • Apples
  • Carrots
  • Celery
  • Strawberries
  • Pineapples
  • Oranges
  • Yogurt
  • Cheese

You can easily find these items in your local grocery store. These foods help strengthen and fortify your teeth.

Perhaps the most important thing to remember is that it’s not the teeth that make the smile, but the joy and brightness of the heart that spills over into the expressions of the face.