Maintaining Oral Health as You Age

May 14, 2014, 15:47 ET from Pennsylvania Dental Association

HARRISBURG, Pa., May 14, 2014 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- A common belief associated with aging is the expectation of losing your natural teeth. Seniors, fret not—today, approximately 75 percent of people over age 65 have kept some or all of their natural teeth.

May is National Older Americans Month, and despite the growing percentage of seniors retaining their teeth, it is vital your oral health is not overlooked as you age. For this reason, the Pennsylvania Dental Association (PDA) is stressing the importance of practicing proper oral health care at any age. A lifelong dedication to these good habits can help ensure healthy smiles for a lifetime.

  • Brush all tooth surfaces, including the backs of teeth and your tongue, twice a day with fluoride toothpaste and a soft-bristled toothbrush. Floss once a day to remove particles of food that get stuck between your teeth and under your gums.
  • Visit your dentist every six months for a checkup and professional cleaning.
  • Bring a list of current medications to your dentist appointments, including those that are over-the-counter, and let your dentist know if you are taking any new medications.
  • Eat a balanced diet from the five major food groups, and avoid sugary foods and beverages.
  • Avoid tobacco and alcohol use. Among other things, tobacco and alcohol greatly increase the risk of periodontal (gum) disease and oral cancer.
  • If you experience dry mouth (xerostomia), talk to your dentist. There are many treatments he or she can recommend to alleviate the symptoms of dry mouth, including increasing fluid intake, chewing sugarless gum, sucking on sugarless candy or using artificial saliva. Left untreated, dry mouth can cause an increase in cavities, gingivitis and other oral infections.
  • If you wear dentures, they should be cleaned after meals and before going to bed at night. If you notice changes in your gums, such as red or white sores or raised bumps, report them to your dentist immediately.

"I wish all fillings and dental work would last forever, but dental work requires maintenance," said Dr. Bruce Terry, a PDA member from Wayne. "Everyone should be seen by their dentist regularly to see if there are any broken teeth or fillings. The health of the gum tissues can also be an early sign of several systemic diseases like diabetes."

Older adults face significant health challenges if their oral health is poor. If your access to care is compromised, and you are in need of free or reduced cost oral health care, visit PDA's online dental clinic directory at Click on your preferred county to view a listing of clinics available in your area. The directory contains detailed information on free and reduced-fee dental clinics, such as location and contact information, hours of operations, patient eligibility, services provided, fees and areas served.

About the Pennsylvania Dental Association
Founded in 1868, the Pennsylvania Dental Association (PDA) is comprised of approximately 6,000 member dentists. It is a constituency of the American Dental Association (ADA), the largest and oldest national dental society in the world. PDA's mission is to improve the public health, promote the art and science of dentistry and represent the interests of its member dentists and their patients. PDA is the voice of dentistry in Pennsylvania. For more information on PDA, visit our website at

SOURCE Pennsylvania Dental Association