Dental Health with a Focus on Adults Over Age 60

Today everyone should believe that they can keep most or all of their teeth for their entire life.  There are many factors that can affect your oral health and some become more common and pronounced as we age.  Here are some tips to help you maintain great oral health: 

Oral Hygiene:  To maintain great oral health brush at least twice daily, floss daily and have regular dental visits, as recommend by your dentist. 

Arthritis:  As we age, arthritis can make it more difficult to maintain good oral hygiene.  Larger handled electric toothbrushes are more effective and easier to use than manual toothbrushes.  Some interdental cleaners may be easier to use than floss.  Your dentist can advise about the many products available to assist with better homecare based on your individual needs.

Medications and Dry Mouth: In general, the more medications we take the more at risk we are for oral health problems because many medications have the side effect of dry mouth.  Dry mouth is a major factor in creating an environment for cavities and periodontal disease as well as bad breath.  As we age our saliva glands produce less saliva leading to a dryer mouth.  Also, dry mouth can make eating uncomfortable, making proper nutrition and good health a problem.

Nutrition:  A healthy diet includes, fresh fruits, unsalted nuts, fresh vegetables, low-fat dairy, lean protein, eliminating processed foods and beverages, limiting alcohol, avoiding sugar and refined carbohydrates and drinking water.  A well-balanced diet will also strengthen bones of the jaw.  Ingesting good sources of calcium helps bone regenerate and chewing stimulates the jaw bone making it stronger.   It may be difficult to get all the vitamins and minerals needed from the foods we eat today so I also advise people be tested for deficiencies and discuss their diet and supplements with their physician or a nutritionist. 

Exercise: This is important for heart health but also bone health.  Regular exercise strengthens muscles, bones and helps with our balance.  Stronger muscles, bones and good balance make it less likely people will have serious falls that may fracture bones.  Just as weight bearing exercises will strengthen bones, eating foods with texture like meats, nuts and raw vegetables strengthen the jaw bones.

Joint Replacement: Some people may need to have one or more joints replaced during their life.  Most of these people do not need to have antibiotic premedication prior to dental visits as previously thought.  The number of antibiotic resistant diseases has dramatically increased over the last several years and it is because antibiotics had been prescribed too frequently and for too many days.  Dentists and physicians are now being very careful to prescribe only when necessary.  The American Dental Association and the American Association of Orthopedic Surgeons have recommended that most joint replacement patients do not need premedication.  Ask your dentist or orthopedic surgeon about your individual needs.

May you have longevity and good health.


Dr. Robert A. Gallegos is a Fellow in the Academy of General Dentistry, visiting faculty of Spear Education, a member the American Academy of Dental Sleep Medicine, the American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry, and the American Dental Association.  Dr. Gallegos practices dentistry in Middleburg, VA.

Dr. Gallegos