Almost one out of four people 65 and older have lost all of their teeth. That fact, from the American Academy of Periodontology, might be surprising and just a little frightening for those of us still with a full set of choppers.
But think what that means to quality of life. It limits the kind and amounts of food people can eat and that can lead to malnutrition and more serious conditions like diabetes, heart disease and stroke.
Prevention really is still the best deterrent to tooth loss. The American Dental Association provides this list of dental hygiene and care tips for each stage in life.
Infants and children
- Begin clearing your baby's mouth the first few days after birth. After every feeding, wipe the baby's gums with a damp washcloth.
- Don't give your baby a bottle with milk, formula, sugar water or fruit juice during naps or at night in bed.
- Encourage children to drink from a cup by their first birthday.
- Help your child develop good eating habits early and choose healthy snacks.
- When teeth start to appear, brush them with a child's toothbrush and plain water.
- Begin flossing when at least two teeth begin to touch.
- Start regular dental visits by the child's first birthday.
- For children ages two to seven, brush teeth with a pea-sized amount of fluoride toothpaste and floss daily.
- As he or she gets older, continue to supervise your child's brushing, flossing and eating habits - while never letting your child miss a dentist appointment.
Teens and Adults
- Brush your teeth at least twice a day, and after every meal if possible. The American Dental Association (ADA) recommends that you get a new toothbrush every three to four months.
- Properly clean and store your toothbrush. Visit www.ada.org/1887.aspx for complete information.
- Floss your teeth once a day to clean the spaces between teeth that your toothbrush can't reach.
- Don't overdo it with sweets and other sugary foods.
- Don't smoke, or if you do, quit.
- Visit your dentist twice a year for checkups and cleanings.
- Use a fluoride mouth rinse to help reduce bacteria that can cause tooth decay.
- Continue to follow good brushing, flossing and rinsing habits.
- Continue to have regular dentist exams and cleanings.
- Pay closer attention to such things as loose or sensitive teeth, difficulty tasting, chewing, or swallowing, any pain, sores, or bleeding in your mouth (from www.webmd.com/oral-health/guide/dental-care-seniors).
- If you have to get dentures (false teeth), follow these general steps to care for them. For a full list of denture care tips, visit dentures.net.
- Wear your dentures every day to keep them fitting well.
- Take your dentures out at night and run a soft toothbrush over your gums.
- Brush your dentures with a special denture brush and use denture toothpaste.
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