Approximately 75 million Americans were born as part of the Baby Boomer generation, a term that applies to anyone born between 1946 and 1964. As this large group of parents and grandparents begin to head towards retirement, they face serious oral health problems that threaten to make their golden years less pleasant than they should be.
According to a study conducted by the prescription drug manufacturer Procter & Gamble, the oral health of Baby Boomer’s falls well below that of subsequent generations, and approximately 25 percent of all seniors in the U.S. have no remaining permanent teeth, according to a research from the Kaiser Family Foundation. Tooth loss creates the potential for other serious health issues to develop throughout the body, as recent studies have linked poor oral health – especially gum disease- with a number of chronic disease, including obesity, heart disease, and diabetes.
A joint survey conducted by the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) and Procter & Gamble found that oral health ranked among the top three biggest concerns for those over the age of 55. This concern has led to an increased interest in preserving their oral health, and a willingness to visit the dentist. Roughly 74 percent of those surveyed said they visited a dentist at least twice yearly, and 78 percent of respondents said they sought out dental care more frequently now than they did a decade ago.
While many seniors have started to visit the dentist more frequently, most don’t understand what taking care of their oral health actually entails. The survey found that 60 percent of Boomers failed to use mouthwash as part of their nightly hygiene routine, 47 percent failed to floss, and 34 percent only brushed once daily. Despite the neglect practicing this type of oral hygiene can cause, many seniors surveyed said they believe themselves taking the proper steps to protect their oral health.
Improving Oral Care
Educating seniors on what constitutes proper oral care is the first step towards improving the health of their teeth and gums. Fortunately, most seniors have already taken the initiative to schedule regular dental appointments, which plays a vital role in protecting their oral health. However, Boomers need to reconsider what constitutes quality oral health.
- Brushing. Just as kids and adults, seniors need to brush twice daily for at least two minutes at a time to prevent the development of decay. Seniors may have difficulty brushing, however, if achy joints and hands prevent them from navigating the various areas of their mouth with enough pressure. Using an electric toothbrush may make it slightly easier for seniors to brush.
- Flossing. Since a toothbrush cannot navigate the crevices between teeth, seniors need to floss daily to remove food particles and bacteria from these hard to reach places. To many dentists, flossing ranks as a more important daily habit than brushing, and needs to be a part of any seniors’ daily routine who wants to maintain their oral health.
- Mouthwash. While many people may overlook the importance of using a rinse when trying to maintain a healthy mouth, bacteria-killing mouthwashes can reduce plaque and the germs that cause gingivitis, while also helping to combat foul breath. Studies have found that using a rinse as part of a daily oral hygiene routine can reduce germs that contribute to plaque by up to 26 percent.
- Change of diet. There are a variety of reasons why focusing on a healthier diet is important for the body, but it can also make a significant difference with seniors’ oral health. Tooth decay, dry mouth, plaque, and bad breath can all be combated by increasing the amount of whole grains, vegetables, and fruits in a diet, while decreasing the amount of artificial sugar, red meat, fried foods, and simple starches.
Come on by Ostenson Dental, your premier dentist in Vancouver WA, to get your teeth checked out today.