Lisa Conway – Hometown News

Q: My father-in-law won’t see the dentist. Can you explain why he should?

A: Many people don’t realize the health of your mouth, teeth and gums can affect your general health. Most of the bacteria in your mouth is harmless and can be kept under control with proper brushing and flossing and your body’s normal defenses.  But with poor oral hygiene, the bacteria may cause tooth decay, oral infection and gum disease.

Many common medications can decrease the production of saliva in the mouth. Saliva helps to wash away food and neutralizes acids that are produced by bacteria. As saliva decreases, the risk of infection or illness increases.

  • Diabetes results from insufficient production of insulin — and it increases a person’s risk of infection. Gum disease is more frequent and more severe in people with diabetes. Diabetes patients with gum disease have a more difficult time controlling their blood sugar levels.
  • Osteoporosis is a weakening of the bones. This weakening can cause periodontal bone loss and even tooth loss.
  • Endocarditis is an infection of the inner lining of your heart chambers or endocardium. It may occur when bacteria from other parts of your body, often the mouth, enters the bloodstream.

Rheumatoid arthritis, eating disorders and even certain cancers may be related to oral health. This is why you should discuss your medical history with your dentist and make them aware of the medications you are taking.

Here’s a quick to-do list to protect your teeth and oral health.

  • Brush your teeth AT LEAST twice daily with fluoride toothpaste
  • Floss daily
  • Follow brushing with mouthwash to remove any remaining food particles
  • Schedule (and keep) regular dental visits and cleanings
  • Replace your toothbrush every three months (soft bristle recommended)
  • Eat a healthy diet and limit sugary foods and drinks
  • Avoid tobacco use

For the Ultimate Oral Health Guide for Seniors, visit, a campaign for oral health.

One Senior Place is a marketplace for resources and provider of information, advice, care and on-site services for seniors and their families. Questions for this column are answered by professionals in nursing, social work, care management and in-home care. Send questions to or visit One Senior Place, The Experts in Aging at OneSeniorPlace.comLisa Conway is a Registered Nurse and a Certified Care Manager for Senior Partner Care Services, Viera.