3 Dental Regrets of Older Americans (Don’t Repeat Them!)
- December 15, 2023
- 6 mins read
Have you been brushing and flossing regularly? If not, listen up. Your elders have some wisdom to share regarding your teeth and gums. Many older Americans neglected their oral health when they were younger, and now, they are dealing with pain, expensive dental procedures, tooth loss, and other issues. As many as 72% of Americans aged 50 and older wish they could turn back time and build better dental habits.
Take it from those who have been there and avoid making the same mistakes. Lessons from dear elders could save you thousands of dollars and a lifetime of discomfort.
How Oral Health Impacts Overall Health
How well you care for your teeth and gums today will impact your health tomorrow. As you age, your teeth and gums will naturally weaken. Years of built-up plaque hardens into tartar, inflaming gums and loosening teeth. By your 60s and 70s, it’s common to experience gum disease, tooth loss, or oral cancer if you did not establish good dental habits in your youth.
Furthermore, did you know the state of your oral health will affect your overall health? Bacteria in the mouth have been linked to heart disease, diabetes, and cognitive impairment. Sadly, many older adults were unaware of these facts.
- 3 in 5 (61%) did not know that gum swelling is linked to heart disease, diabetes, and an increased risk of Alzheimer’s disease.
- 2 in 5 (40%) did not know that bacteria from the mouth can spread to other parts of the body.
Dental Regrets of Older Americans
Listen and learn. Here are three of the most common dental regrets, according to Americans 50 and up:
1. Not Brushing Twice a Day
About 31% of older adults wish they had brushed their teeth morning and night, every single day.
Brushing your teeth twice daily is the easiest and most effective way to maintain healthy teeth and gums. Consistent brushing removes plaque and food particles that cause cavities and gum disease, maintains pearly white teeth, and freshens your breath.
Make brushing in the morning and evening a non-negotiable part of your routine. Set an alarm or reminder until the habit sticks. Your future self with healthy teeth and gums will be grateful that you started this simple yet powerful habit now rather than later.
Step-by-step guide to proper teeth brushing:
- Use the right toothbrush: Choose a soft-bristled toothbrush that suits your mouth and is comfortable to use.
- Use an ADA-approved toothpaste: Squeeze a pea-sized amount of fluoride toothpaste onto your toothbrush. Look for the American Dental Association (ADA) seal for approved products.
- Proper grip: Hold your toothbrush at a 45-degree angle to your gums, using a gentle grip.
- Start with the outer surfaces: Begin brushing the outer surfaces of your teeth, moving the brush in gentle, circular motions. Pay extra attention to the gumline.
- Clean the inner surfaces: Tilt the brush vertically and clean the inner surfaces of your teeth using circular or up-and-down motions.
- Brush the chewing surfaces: Use back-and-forth motions to clean the chewing surfaces of your molars.
- Clean the tongue and roof of your mouth: Gently brush your tongue and the roof of your mouth to remove bacteria and freshen breath. You can also use a tongue scraper.
- Time yourself: Brush for at least two minutes to ensure thorough cleaning.
- Rinse and store properly: Rinse your mouth and toothbrush after brushing. Store your toothbrush in an upright position to air dry.
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2. Not Flossing Enough
If there’s one thing seniors could tell their younger selves, it’s to floss, floss, floss!
Flossing removes food debris and plaque in areas a toothbrush can’t reach. Neglecting to floss leads to buildup that causes inflammation, bleeding gums, and tooth loss over time.
Developing a daily flossing routine from a young age is critical for maintaining healthy teeth and gums for decades to come. Whether in the morning or at night before bed, make flossing part of your routine. You only need to do it once a day.
Step-by-step guide to flossing:
- Use the right tools: Have dental floss or floss picks on hand.
- Measure the floss: Cut about 18 inches of floss and wind it around your fingers, leaving a couple of inches for maneuvering.
- Hold the floss: Grip the floss between your thumbs and forefingers, leaving a one-inch length for cleaning.
- Gentle insertion: Slide the floss between teeth, avoiding force to prevent gum damage.
- Curve around the tooth: Form a C-shape with the floss, hugging one tooth while moving up and down.
- Clean below the gumline: Extend the floss beneath the gum line, but be gentle to avoid irritation.
- Switch fingers: Use a fresh section of floss as you move to the next tooth.
- Repeat for each tooth: Continue this process for all teeth, including the back molars.
- Rinse: Rinse your mouth after flossing.
- Maintain consistency: Floss daily to keep your gums and teeth healthy, preventing plaque buildup and other oral health issues.
3. Skipping Annual Dental Checkups
Finalizing our list of dental care mistakes, 41% of older adults wish they had gone to the dentist more during their younger years.
Routine dental checkups with a top dentist in Chandler, Arizona, is a crucial preventive measure for the following:
- Complete dental care: Bi-annual checkups ensure early detection and intervention, preventing dental problems from escalating.
- Overall health: Foregoing dental visits increases the risk of undetected oral issues that can impact systemic health. Remember, gum disease has associations with heart issues and diabetes.
- Early detection of oral cancer: Regular dental examinations can reveal early signs of oral cancer.
- Lower dental expenses: Delaying dental visits may lead to more extensive and expensive treatments in the future. Preventive care is generally more cost-effective than addressing advanced dental issues.
Contact Kyrene Family Dentistry now if you are long overdue for a dental appointment.
It’s never too late to improve your oral health, but the sooner the better! Basic steps like brushing your teeth twice a day, flossing regularly, and visiting your Chandler dentist every six months can help reduce inflammation, prevent disease, and keep your teeth and gums healthy for as long as possible.
Our elders speak from experience. Take advantage of their wisdom and make caring for your teeth a lifelong habit. Your future self will thank you, as will your dentist.