It is common for seniors to endure dental issues ranging from periodontal disease to dry mouth, and because oral health directly affects the entire body, such concerns shouldn’t be taken lightly. Maintaining elderly gums and teeth is just as vital as doing so for our heart or digestive health. The correct practice of oral health care is especially vital in caregiving facilities and nursing homes, where most residents can’t maintain their own teeth and depend on caregivers and employees.
9 Dental Concerns For Seniors
- Heart Disease – Studies show links between heart disease and gum disease. Based on research from the American Academy of Periodontology, those with periodontal disease are about two times as likely to endure heart disease or coronary artery disease. Other research suggests that the presence of typical mouth problems, such as cavities, gingivitis, and tooth loss, were as effective at predicting heart disease via levels of cholesterol. Practicing proper oral hygiene is a strong weapon against strokes, heart attacks, and related conditions of heart disease.
- Pneumonia – In older adults, bad oral health is connected to pneumonia. By inhaling droplets of bacteria that travel from the mouth to the lungs, senior citizens are more vulnerable to the condition; the best way to fight this bacterium is through proper oral hygiene.
- Diabetes – Periodontitis, which is an extreme disease of the gums, inhibits the body’s ability to use insulin. Gum infection can occur through high blood sugar, which is a side effect of diabetes. Regular dental visits and proper oral care can help control this condition.
- Darkened teeth – Dentin (the tissue beneath the tooth enamel) naturally yellows over time and the enamel that colors teeth gets thinner with age which allows the dentin to show through. Foods and smoking can also stain teeth as people get older.
- Dry mouth – Dry mouth occurs when saliva flow is decreased. This can happen through medication side effects or treatments for other conditions. Saliva helps prevent tooth decay by neutralizing acids produced by bacteria, limiting bacterial growth and washing away food particles. Saliva also enhances your ability to taste and makes it easier to swallow. In addition, enzymes in saliva aid digestion.
- Root decay – This is a result of decaying acids touching exposed tooth roots. Exposure of these roots happens when the gum tissue recedes from the tooth. There is no enamel on roots. Since they have no protection, they are more susceptible to decay than the tooth’s crown.
- Gum disease – Produced by plaque and worsened by lingering food in teeth, smoking, dentures, and bridges that have been improperly fitted; and diseases such as cancer, anemia, and diabetes, which is a common issue for older adults.
- Unbalanced jawbone – This happens when missing teeth aren’t replaced. When this occurs, the remaining teeth shift and drift into vacant spaces.
- Denture-induced stomatitis – Tissue beneath a denture becomes inflamed when dentures are improperly fitted, oral hygiene is infrequent, and when candida Albicans (a fungus) accumulates.
How Oral Health Can Be Affected by Age
Specific medical conditions, including finger and hand arthritis, might make flossing or brushing teeth hard to do. Dental problems can also arise in genetically predisposed individuals. Medication can impact dental health, as can neglecting to brush. Cognitive health disorders can contribute to the suffering as well. These facts should be motivation enough to prioritize dental care. It is recommended that you visit a dentists and dental hygienist every six months.
Senior Dental Care Improvement
Everyone knows how important it is to floss and brush each day to maintain oral health. However, proper dental care involves more than just those two things. Here are some professional rules of thumb from the American Dental Association:
- Use a toothbrush with soft bristles, use toothpaste with fluoride in it, and brush twice a day.
- Instead of a standard toothbrush, use an electric one.
- Use floss or a similar inter-dental cleaner to get to the areas between your teeth.
- Use an antiseptic mouthwash at least once a day.
- Clean out partial or full dentures regularly.
- For at least four hours a day, remove dentures from your mouth. It is optimal to take them out at night.
- Drink water from the tap. It can help stop decay of your teeth regardless of your age since it contains fluoride.
- Stop smoking. In addition to making you a high-risk candidate for cancer, smoking facilitates issues with tooth decay, gum disease, and loss of teeth.
- Schedule regular visits with a dentist for check-ups, oral exams, and cleaning.
- Consume a well-balanced, healthy diet consisting of high-fiber and dairy foods.
What To Expect During a Dental Exam for Senior Citizens?
As a senior citizen, your dentist will first attempt to learn about your dental history. He or she will ask questions such involving the following:
- When the last dental appointment you had was and what it entailed.
- If any new changes in your mouth have occurred.
- If you are experiencing tooth sensitivity or if any have come loose.
- If you had trouble chewing, tasting, or swallowing.
- If you are enduring any discomfort, pain, bleeding, or sores in your mouth.
- If you have seen or felt any bumps, lumps, swelling in your mouth.
While the oral exam is transpiring, your dentist will evaluate the following:
- your neck and face (for skin moles, discoloration, or sores);
- your bite (for issues on how the teeth come together while closing and opening your mouth);
- your jaw (for indications of popping and clicking of the temporomandibular joint);
- your salivary glands and lymph nodes (for any indication of lumps or swelling);
- your interior cheeks (for ulcers, infections, or traumatizing injuries);
- your tongue and other inner areas such as the hard and soft palate, floor of the mouth, and gum tissue (for indications of oral cancer or infection); your teeth (for the condition of fillings, decay, and cracks).
If you wear dentures or something similar, you’ll be asked by our dentist to address some queries about how you insert them, and when they’re taken out (if they can be removed). Additionally, your dentist will inspect for any problems or irritations in the spaces in your mouth the dentures make contact with; and assess the denture itself to find any broken or worn-out areas.