The process of aging certainly poses several challenges to the health of senior citizens for which sufficient attention and care is necessary. Besides physical and mental ailments, there are substantial issues in the context of their teeth and gums which need to be addressed. Therefore, dental hygiene plays a crucial role in maintaining the oral health and overall well-being of elders.
Aging puts older people at risk for several oral problems. But these problems may not be attributed to the aging factor alone. The prevalence of comorbid conditions like Arthritis or Dementia is likely to affect the dexterity of the hands and teeth. That makes brushing and flossing very tedious for such patients leading to bad teeth. Additionally, certain medications may cause side-effects and dental problems which necessitate treatment.
More often, there is a quick build-up of plaque on the teeth of elders, especially if oral hygiene is compromised or neglected. Some of the frequently encountered elderly dental problems are enlisted below-
- Darkening of the teeth due to enamel damage
- Dryness in the mouth caused by decreased saliva flow
- Tooth decay and pain
- Bleeding and disease of the gums
- Diminished sense of taste
- Loss of tooth
- Stomatitis induced by artificial dentures due to inflammation of underlying tissue
- Unevenness in the bones of the jaws
- Thrush caused by fungal growth in the mouth
- Oral Cancer
Besides these, poor oral health is also said to cause pneumonia, heart ailments and diabetes in elders.
Tips to Improve Senior Dental Care
- Brush your teeth twice daily with a toothpaste containing fluoride
- Do flossing atleast once a day
- Use an antibacterial mouthwash to reduce bacterial infections that cause gum disease and plaque
- Replace the toothbrush as soon as the bristles are spoilt or every three or four months
- Quit bad health habits like smoking
- Visit the dentist periodically to undergo oral examination and dental cleaning. During these visits, the dentist checks the teeth for decays, cavities and broken fillings, monitors the gum health and may do an oral cancer screening test.
- Seniors using dentures must clean them daily with cleaners specifically meant for that purpose. The dentures must also be removed for about four hours a day to maintaining good gum health.
- Those elders who have physical limitations for brushing and flossing can use oral appliances recommended by dentists like electric toothbrushes, special bristle patterns, inter-dental cleaners and floss holders to clean their teeth effectively.
- Some best food for seniors for good dental health should include a well-balanced diet that has wholegrain foods, vegetables and fruits with high fibrous content, proteins and dairy products.
- There are also some useful senior diet tips for ensuring good oral health-
- Limiting the intake of foods and beverages that contain sugar like processed items, sweets, carbonated soft drinks and artificial juices. To minimize damage caused by sugar, try consuming sugar-free medications and sweeteners as substitutes.
- Chewing sugar-free gums to increase saliva flow.
- Increasing the intake of calcium in your diet to increase the strength of bones and teeth.
- Drinking tap water if possible as it contains lots of fluoride which prevents tooth decay.
- Remaining hydrated throughout the day by drinking plenty of clear fluids if you are suffering from dry mouth. Also, avoid drinking caffeine and alcohol that aggravates these symptoms.
Many seniors also happen to suffer from low self-esteem, mouth pain and malnutrition due to oral health issues. Geriatric Home Care Services can help elders in establishing and maintaining a regular oral care routine to overcome this. It assists them in using proper brushing techniques and oral hygiene aids, maintaining dentures and accompanying them to dentist consultations.
So don’t compromise on dental health because it not only improves personal hygiene but ensures whole-body health in the golden years!