Ageing can affect oral health, just as it does overall health.
Being disabled, homebound, or institutionalized (e.g. seniors who live in nursing homes) also increases the risk of poor oral health.
In addition, older adults, especially those who are economically disadvantaged, lack insurance, or are members of racial and ethnic minorities, tend to have poor oral health. This increases the risk of oral health problems.
If untreated, oral health problems are generally progressive and cumulative, becoming more complex over time.
That’s why I’m going to explain some of the things that caregivers should look out for when we are taking care of seniors.
I’ll specifically discuss the most common oral conditions that I’ve seen in geriatric patients, including tooth loss, tooth decay, periodontitis, dry mouth, oral cancer.
Changes in Saliva
Chronic dry mouth is prevalent in a high proportion of the elderly population, affecting about one is five seniors.There is a link between dry mouth and comorbid diseases such as diabetes, Alzheimer’s disease, or Parkinson’s disease.
Dry mouth can result from general dehydration. Some medications also cause a reduction in saliva. A dry mouth can be associated with cavities, cracked lips, cracked tongue, and oral mucositis.
Dry mouth can have a considerable impact on the patient’s quality of life, affecting taste, speech, pleasure and food intake, and the fit of dentures.
If a senior is suffering from dry mouth, chewing sugarless gum may help stimulate saliva.
The occurrence of periodontal disease increases with age.
Periodontal disease is an infectious disease (bacteria) that affects and destroys the supporting tissues of the teeth.
The disease develops slowly and evolves over several years. If left untreated it can lead to other conditions.
Active periodontitis has been associated with systemic diseases, such as cardiovascular disease, stroke, and aspiration pneumonia.
Maintaining Good Hygiene is Important to Avoid Oral Health Problems
Since age increases the risk of oral problems, it is important for seniors to practice good oral hygiene.
Seniors can maintain good oral health by brushing, flossing, and limiting snacks and sugary foods. Elders can also take other preventative measures like to:-
- Stop smoking because tobacco is one of the major causes of mouth damage.
- Eat a balanced diet that will provide all the nutrients necessary to preserve the teeth.
- Limit alcohol consumption
- Visit a dental professional for routine check-up
- Inform the dentist of the medical history and any medications taken.
The goal is to keep their smile healthy for a lifetime.A healthy mouth will enable seniors to eat a balanced diet, speak clearly and confidently, and feel good.
For more information on seniors and oral care invite me to speak, you can also purchase my book The Tooth and Nothing But the Truth.