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March is national nutrition month, so you might expect this article to focus on healthy eating, however, if you suffer from poor oral health, eating healthy may be the last thing on your mind.  The pain and discomfort associated with tooth decay, gum disease, dry mouth and other oral health problems can make chewing and swallowing difficult.  You may skip eating altogether or turn to softer foods, which tend to be highly processed, contain a lot of fat and sugar, and are far from healthy.

The good news is that poor oral health is not an inevitable part of aging.  Taking good care of our mouths is just as important, if not more so than when we were younger.  That’s because if left untreated, oral health problems in older adults not only cause tooth loss, they substantially increase our risk of heart disease and stroke.

The three most important things you can do to keep your mouth healthy are 1) brush your teeth twice daily with a soft bristled toothbrush; 2) floss once per day; 3) and visit your dentist regularly.  Brushing your teeth removes food particles and bacteria (called plaque) from your teeth that if left in place cause cavities.  Flossing removes food particles and plaque from between your teeth and below your gum line, which if not removed can lead to gum disease. And visiting your dentist regularly can catch problems early should you have any and keep them from becoming more serious.

As we get older, our hands may not be as steady as they used to be so performing daily tasks such as brushing our teeth and flossing may be a lot more challenging and as a result we may skip them.  However, using a wide-handled or electric tooth brush can make brushing easier and using a floss pick or water flosser can make flossing easier.  For other oral health tips geared toward older adults visit the website www.toothwisdom.org.  Should you need them, the site also has a low cost dental care locater that may help you find nearby low cost dental services