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Tips for caregivers: Oral care

As our loved ones age, their oral health can become a serious issue. According to the Washington Dental Service Foundation (WDSF), around 75% of adults age 60 and older only have a portion of their original teeth. Additionally, poor dental health can have an impact on your loved one's overall health and increase the risk for diabetes and heart disease. Here are some tips for protecting your loved one's teeth:

  1. Practice good oral care at home. Make sure your loved one brushes their teeth at least twice a day. They should use an antibacterial toothpaste that contains fluoride. Your loved one should also floss once a day and use an antibacterial mouthwash once a day to help control plaque and prevent gum disease.

  2. Know what to avoid. Starchy snacks, candy and sugary drinks can cause decay on your loved one's teeth. Try to limit their intake of these foods, but when they do eat them, make sure your loved one brushes their teeth afterward, or at the very least, rinses their mouth with water to reduce the risk of decay. Tobacco and alcohol consumption also leave you at a higher risk for developing certain oral and throat cancers.

  3. Many medications and certain health conditions can cause dry mouth. If your loved one experiences dry mouth, take precautions to assure your loved one doesn't develop more serious symptoms. Your loved one should drink extra water, chew sugar-less gum or suck on mints to help create extra saliva, use an over-the-counter saliva substitute or oral moisturizer and make sure to use a fluoride toothpaste. Talk to your loved one's doctor or dentist about any concerns you have with your loved one's dry mouth symptoms. If it is caused by a prescription drug, there may be a different medication they can try.

  4. Be precautious when it comes to your loved one's oral health. Make sure they regularly visit their dentist, even if they have no natural teeth. Visiting the dentist twice a year is recommend. Check their mouth regularly for sores, unusual lumps, or bumps. Don't disregard sudden changes in their taste and smell as signs of normal aging. It's important to seek professional care when something raises a red flag.

    A version of this article appeared in the Private Health News.