If you’re part of the Baby Boomer generation (ages 57+) or older, then your dental health may not be high on your priority list. Maybe you’re dealing with other health issues, or maybe you believe that whatever chance you had to protect your oral health is long gone. However, it’s never too late to practice better oral hygiene so you can have a healthier smile. This is the last blog post in our Oral Hygiene Tips blog series. Throughout this series, we’ve explored the different oral health risks people must face at different stages of life. Our Hudsonville family dentists have helped patients of all generations improve their oral health and protect their smiles. Previously, we’ve looked at oral hygiene tips for children, Gen Z, millennials, and Generation X. Now, let’s take a look at what Baby Boomers and seniors in general can do to protect their smiles against certain oral health risks. Oral Health Concerns for Seniors Although seniors may be at risk for more oral health problems, every patient is different. A lifetime of good oral hygiene habits can go a long way in protecting your smile as you enter retirement. However, some health risks strike without warning and may complicate your dental care. Our family dentists are here to help no matter what the situation is. Here are some risks that Baby Boomers should watch out for: \tGum recession and tooth loss \tDry mouth \tOral cancer \tOsteoporosis \tDementia Gum Recession and Tooth Loss Receding gums are a natural part of getting older, but tooth loss isn’t inevitable. In fact, 75% of people 65 and older retain at least some of their natural teeth, even with an increased risk for gum disease and tooth loss. Keep in mind that it’s not just your receding gums that increase your risk for tooth loss. The rate of tooth decay for seniors is worse than for school children. You’ll have to continue to practice good oral hygiene habits to protect your smile against cavities. Dry Mouth Dry mouth is typical as you get older. For seniors taking certain medications or undergoing radiation therapy for cancer, their risk for dry mouth can be even higher. Your saliva is crucial in preventing tooth decay by washing away food particles and preventing bacterial growth. If you’re suffering from dry mouth, you may have an increased risk for gum disease and tooth decay. Oral Cancer More than 50,000 Americans will get oral or throat cancer this year, according to the American Cancer Society. Tobacco use and frequent alcohol consumption greatly increase your risk for oral cancer, but age is a factor as well (granted, a smaller one). People who are 45 years old or older have a slightly increased risk for oral cancer. However, doctors stress that this disease can affect people of all ages. Osteoporosis Osteoporosis causes your bones to become less dense and more likely to fracture. Although osteoporosis can affect anyone, women are four times more likely to develop the condition than men. We tend to treat our oral health as separate from our overall health. However, a disease like osteoporosis shows just how interconnected our bodies are. In fact, women with osteoporosis are three times more likely to experience tooth loss than those without the disease. Even some of the medications you may take for your osteoporosis can have negative side effects for the health of your jaw bone. If you’re suffering from osteoporosis, be sure to mention your current treatment plan to your dentist so they can help you make the best decisions for your oral health and your overall health. Dementia Recent research shows a link between your oral health and your risk for dementia. One 2019 study suggested that the bacteria that causes gingivitis may also be connected to Alzheimer’s disease. A study involving 1,500 seniors in Japan from 2007 to 2012 found that participants with fewer teeth had a greater chance of developing dementia during the five years of the study. Healthy Oral Hygiene for Baby Boomers No matter how old you are, there are steps you can take to protect your smile. Here are some good oral hygiene habits seniors can adopt to protect their oral health: \tContinue to brush and floss regularly: The best thing you can do is to continue the good oral hygiene habits you’ve practiced throughout your life. Brush your teeth for two minutes twice a day, floss daily, and make sure you schedule a teeth cleaning with our dentists every six months. \tGet an oral cancer screening: Our dentists can conduct an oral cancer screening during your next visit. That way, if there are any signs of oral cancer, we can catch it early and increase your chance of recovery. \tReapply fluoride varnish: Fluoride treatments can help prevent tooth decay. If it’s been a while since you got a fluoride treatment, ask our dentist about reapplying fluoride varnish to protect your smile. \tStrengthen your smile with dental implants: If you are suffering from tooth loss, ask our dentist about dental implants. Dental implants restore your smile and offer both the appearance and the function of natural teeth. They also stimulate your jaw bone, preventing facial collapse. \tDon’t delay if you need dentures: If you have significant tooth loss, dentures may be right for you. Although it can take a while to get used to dentures, the sooner you start, the better. You can trust our dentists to help you adjust to partial or full dentures so you can eat, smile, and talk with confidence again. Protect Your Oral Health with Senior Dentistry Our Hudsonville, MI, family dentists can help Baby Boomers protect their smile from tooth loss or restore their smile if tooth loss has already begun. Call Hudsonville Dental today at (616) 209-4024, or contact us online to schedule an appointment.