Your overall health and your oral health are closely linked. As you age, your risk of having poor oral health increases. Infections in your teeth and the structures supporting them, like your gums, can increase risks for many illnesses. These include heart disease, diabetes, cancer, and stroke as well as infections like pneumonia. In turn, these illnesses and some medicines may increase risks to your oral health.
Older adults with disability, cognitive impairment, visual problems, arthritis, or dry mouth are more likely to have poor oral health.
Most older adults have some type of oral health problem. These problems may cause you pain, tooth and bone loss, difficulty with eating, malnutrition, infections, and changes in your overall health. Also, you may feel embarrassment and anxiety about your appearance and smile, which could affect your willingness to socialize with others.
Fortunately, you can take steps to help prevent these problems and improve your oral health. You may be able to prevent poor oral health if you:
- Brush your teeth thoroughly twice a day
- Use dental aids or adaptive dental tools (electric toothbrush, flossing/ water flossing)
- Get treatment for decay and other infections in your mouth
- Get dental screenings and exams
Talk to your doctor about some of the medications you are on. Some may cause darkened teeth, dry mouth, or other conditions, and may require a change in dental treatment.