Take care of your teeth

It’s important to take care of your teeth – on more than one level.We all know that having healthy teeth is good for us – strong teeth help in consuming vegetables and fruit that keep us healthy; speaking clearly; keeping breath fresh; and of course presenting a great smile.But there are even more reasons to take care of those pearly whites.

Researchers reported this month that older adults who have higher proportions of four periodontal-disease-causing bacteria inhabiting their mouths also tend to have thicker carotid arteries, a strong predictor of stroke and heart attack. The study, published in the current issue of the journal Circulation, was supported by four agencies of the National Institutes of Health in the United States.

Besides regular visits to your dentist for check-ups and cleanings, the best way to prevent or minimize gum disease is good oral hygiene. Brushing and flossing are both important, and worth those extra minutes at the mirror.

No substitute for floss
Flossing seems to be one of those activities we all know we should do – but don’t always get around to. It’s easy to try substitutingasier solutions. But there’s no exchange for the time it takes to floss for real. Irrigating devices like waterpicks are useful for stimulating the gums but do not remove plaque. And although an ad for Listerine claimed that it was as effective as floss, a U.S. district judge ordered that the ad campaign be stopped as it was misleading. The lawsuit was brought to court by a Johnson & Johnson company that makes floss.

So buckle down with your favourite flavour of floss and give it a go.

Aging adds challenges
As we age it can be harder to manage all those finicky steps. Some tips for aging hands include:

  • Attach the toothbrush to a larger object such as a ball, ruler, tongue depressor, sponge or bicycle handle grip
  • Purchase an electric toothbrush, it does the work for you and is easy to hold 
    Have someone bend the toothbrush handle to make it more comfortable to hold
  • Use a floss holder to help guide the floss in between teeth, or try one of the new power flossers.

Tips for caregivers
Oral health remains important even after a loved one moves to a long-term care facility.  It’s a good idea to ask questions of the nursing home staff, such as:

  • Is there an on-call dentist available?
  • Are staff members trained to recognize oral health problems?
  • Do staff members assist/perform oral care at least once each day?

Remember, if you take care of your teeth and gums, they’ll take care of you.