There is no reason you can’t take your own teeth well into old age, as long as you take care of them properly. The rules are the same as they have been your entire life:
■ Brush twice a day with a soft-bristled toothbrush.
■ Floss between your teeth once a day.
■ Don’t smoke or use chewing tobacco or snuff.
As you get older, the nerves in your teeth may be less alert to problems like cavities. Your personal care team at On Lok Lifeways will schedule regular checkups with your PACE dentist, who can spot problems before they become more serious. During a visit, the dentist will look for signs of disease, such as cancer of the head and neck, and check to see if your dentures fit well or might need adjustments.
According to the American Dental Association, you may also start getting more cavities in older age. That’s often because of dry mouth, which can be a side effect of hundreds of medications, including treatments for high blood pressure and high cholesterol. Your dentist can offer tips for making more saliva—like sucking on sugar-free lozenges or drinking plenty of water. Eating a balanced diet that provides good nutrition is also important to keep your mouth healthy.
Even if you wear full dentures, you must still take good care of your mouth. Brush your gums, tongue and palate every morning with a soft-bristled brush before you put in your dentures. This increases circulation in your tissues and helps remove plaque.
Clean your dentures each day by taking them out of your mouth and carefully rinsing off loose food particles. Wet your brush and put denture cleaner on it. It is best to use a dentures brush, but you can use a toothbrush with soft bristles. Brush all the denture surfaces gently to keep from damaging the plastic base. Toothpaste should be avoided because it contains abrasive particles that can damage the denture base and teeth.
Dentures are very delicate and can break if dropped on a hard surface. Stand over a folded towel or a sink filled with cool water when holding your dentures. Also, keep your dentures in water when you are not wearing them; do not let them dry out, or they can lose their shape.
Your On Lok Lifeways dentist can tell you how to care for your dentures and if you should use a denture soaking solution. Make sure to rinse your dentures well after using any denture cleanser; it may contain chemicals that are not intended to go into the mouth. Look for denture cleansers with the American Dental Association Seal of Acceptance, a symbol of safety and effectiveness.
These simple rules can keep you smiling for years to come!