Halloween can be such a sweet time of year for people of all ages. Costumes and candy are two main components of this festive holiday, but for seniors too many sweets can be harmful to their oral health. Oral hygiene is extremely important as we age, especially given that dental health is often one of the first personal hygiene steps that gets neglected. Candy and other sweet treats around the holidays can cause seniors' oral health to do a downward spiral, especially if they are already neglecting to take care of this important hygiene step in the first place.
Oral Hygiene Concerns for Seniors
Making oral health a priority for seniors around the holidays is so important since oral health is connected to whole-body health. Oral health is a direct predictor for health of the rest of the body, so taking care of our teeth and gums as we age needs to be taken very seriously. Below are some common oral conditions that adults age 55 and older might face:
- Cavities and decay on the root surfaces of the teeth are more common in older adults. So it's important to brush with a fluoride toothpaste, floss daily and see your dentist regularly.
- Tooth sensitivity can be an increasing problem as one ages. Your gums naturally recede over time, exposing areas of the tooth that are not protected by enamel. These areas are particularly prone to pain due to cold or hot foods or beverages. If you experience sensitivity, try an anti-sensitivity toothpaste. If the problem persists, see your dentist, as the sensitivity may be an indication of a more serious condition, such as a cavity or a cracked or fractured tooth.
- Dry mouth is a common condition in seniors, and one that may be caused by medications or certain medical disorders. Left untreated, dry mouth can damage your teeth. Your dentist can recommend various methods to restore moisture in your mouth, as well as appropriate treatments or medications to help prevent the problems associated with dry mouth.
- Existing health conditions such as diabetes, heart disease, or cancer, can affect your oral health. Be sure to let your dentist know of any general health issues you're facing, so that he or she understands the whole situation and can help you meet your special requirements.
- Dentures can make life easier for many seniors, but they require special care. Follow your dentist's instructions carefully and see your dentist if any problems arise. An annual checkup is recommended for long-term denture wearers.
- Tooth or root decay. Even at 55-plus years, adults can still develop tooth or root decay if gum recession has occurred. It is important for older adults to effectively clean the gums, the teeth and exposed root surfaces to remove dental plaque and food debris.
- Gum disease is a potentially serious condition that can affect people of all ages, but especially people over 40. A number of factors can increase the severity of gum disease, including:
- Bad diet
- Poor oral hygiene
- Systemic diseases, such as diabetes, heart disease and cancer.
- Environmental factors such as: stress and smoking
- Certain medications that can influence gum condition
Brushing teeth at least twice a day and flossing daily is of utmost importance for seniors. However, even if you brush and floss regularly, you may face certain issues in your senior years when it comes to your oral health. Luckily, your dentist and physician can help you meet most of these challenges quite successfully.
Sweet Alternatives this Halloween
People often lose tastebuds as they age, which causes them to crave sweet tastes over other tastes. This is because research shows that the ability to taste sweet flavors - over bitter or salty flavors - appears to be preserved the longest. Some seniors also have a hard time tasting other more subtle flavors due to medications that can affect taste. So should seniors miss out on the sweet-fueled fun of Halloween to protect their oral health? Not necessarily.
There are a many ideas for healthier sweet treats for seniors that will satisfy a sweet tooth without the danger that candy and refined sugar poses to oral health:
- These sweet potato brownies that incorporate sweet potatoes, coconut oil, and honey
- Chocolate no-bake bars that are made with peanut butter, coconut oil, and agave or honey as a sweetener.
- This chocolate banana bread is gluten-free and contains no refined sugars.
- Looking to channel the flavor of the season? This Greek yogurt pumpkin bread adds a great protein punch of pumpkin to a favorite recipe.
- Whole wheat pumpkin applesauce bread adds a healthier dimension to this seasonal treat.
- Cinnamon apple chips are an excellent treat that's appropriate for nearly any diet.
- Apple cider is a favorite treat of people from all generations, especially as the nights get cooler!
- Chocolate and sea salt covered almonds are great for seniors who don't have problems chewing. Keep in mind that they are hard, so they might not be good for seniors who have issues with their teeth.
- Dark chocolate coconut bites use honey or maple syrup instead of refined sugar for a healthier sweet option.
- These no-bake chocolate peanut butter cups are a healthier version of the Halloween favorite.
There are so many tasty options for sweet treats; candy does not have to be one of them. In addition to not containing refined sugar, many homemade, healthy sweet contain health-boosting ingredients including, ginger, coconut, and dark chocolate that are all known to have health-boosting properties, as well as nuts and nut butters that contain additional protein.
Be sure that you're considering your loved one's dietary requirements when you select a sweet treat. While there are some seniors who can still eat whatever they like within reason, others may have specific restrictions that prevent them from eating certain types of baked goods or sugary treats. That doesn't mean, however, that you can't find a sweet treat that fits their diet. Speak to your doctor about finding sweet alternatives if you are diabetic, or if you have any concerns about oral health or diet.
American In-Home Care can also help by referring qualified and compassionate home and respite care Tampa providers that can assist with oral hygiene and other personal hygiene tasks, as well as diet monitoring and meal preparation. Contact us for a free in-home consultation to discuss care options. Stay healthy this holiday season, and Happy Halloween!