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The Importance of Good Oral Hygiene in Older Adults

Updated: Oct 17, 2023

Smiling senior woman sitting on bench.

Your smile is one thing that follows you through life and it keeps you unique to yourself. The smile you have now is the same smile that appeared on your first day of school, it was there when you got hired at your first job and when you had your first kiss. The smile you have will be with you through it all and that is why it is important to take care of it. Your smile can show more than emotion, it is a gateway into the overall health of your body.

Poor oral health is common in the senior community due to untreated tooth decay, gum disease, chronic illnesses and even hormonal changes. Sometimes older adults that experience oral health concerns cannot stop these age-related issues but there are several steps seniors can take to maintain and even slow down said decline.

Health issues that correlate with poor oral health…

Heart Disease & Stroke

Older adults that have periodontal disease are twice as likely to suffer from heart disease and stroke. This is due to plaque and bacterias entering the bloodstream through the gums. This bacteria has the ability to clog arteries and blood vessels which can heighten the risk of stroke and a severe heart attack in older adults.


If bacteria that is collected in the mouth makes its way into the bloodstream, it can ultimately affect a seniors cognitive ability. Bacteria can cause inflammation in many parts of the body including the brain. This inflammation in the brain can reduce neuron ability due to the formation of plaques from amyloid protein bundles between neurons which disrupt cell functions.

Respiratory Conditions

Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), pneumonia, bronchitis and many other infections of the lungs may be caused by the flourishing of bad bacteria in the mouth which makes its way through the bloodstream which ultimately can affect the lungs.


For older adults diagnosed with diabetes, poor oral health can create an environment which could cause controlling blood sugar levels difficult. These difficulties can be caused by the development of gum disease and periodontal disease.


It is thought that poor oral hygiene may be associated with certain types of cancers. Poor dental hygiene could enhance the carcinogenic potential of other known carcinogens, such as alcohol and tobacco.

How to curb the development of pro-inflammatory bacteria in the mouth…

It is important to keep up with annual exams and this includes at least two visits to your dentist each year. There are also many things you can do at home to help promote good oral hygiene:

1. Do not go to bed without brushing your teeth. It is important to brush your teeth twice a day but most importantly before bed. Your mouth collects food debris throughout the day which can help feed the pro-inflammatory bacteria in your mouth.

2. Floss often to reap its benefits. Flossing not only removes the plaque and food debris between your teeth but also stimulates the gums and helps reduce inflammation.

3. Don’t neglect your tongue. Plaque can build up on the surface of your tongue so it is important to brush it gently.

4. Consider using mouthwash. Mouthwash is a great way to flush out debris from the mouth but make sure you find a mouthwash that addresses your oral needs and doesn’t irritate your gums but leaves you feeling fresh afterwards.

5. Try oil pulling. Oil pulling is the process of rinsing out your mouth with certain oils which can benefit your overall oral health by removing debris and bad bacteria from your mouth. There are many oil’s designed for dental oil pulling but you can simply swoosh with a spoonful of coconut oil which has many natural anti-bacterial properties and may help soothe irritated gums.

6. Stay hydrated. Drink a lot of water to help prevent dry mouth. Dry mouth can increase plaque, tooth decay and gum disease.

The link between oral health and overall health isn’t so far apart after all. Think of your mouth as an insight to the rest of the health of your body and take care of your oral hygiene to promote your healthy lifestyle.


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