Seniors and Dental Health
Oral health is linked to our bodies’ overall states of health and wellbeing in significant ways, but with the ever-growing list of things to take care of as we grow older, attending to this aspect of personal care can easily become neglected. A whole host of oral health problems exist, some of which impact just the mouth and others whose reach extends into other areas of the body. It is, therefore, important that seniors and their caregivers prioritize oral hygiene and direct ample attention towards oral care.
Aging and Oral Health
There are numerous personal factors that come into play when it comes to seniors’ oral health, the state of which depends largely on individual histories and circumstances. Along with the general wear and tear that takes place throughout the passage of time, there might also be genetic or developed predispositions to oral health problems, side-effects from medications that affect oral health, and other similar factors that become relevant. Also important to note is the fact that seemingly unrelated changes connected to seniors mental and physical health can come to create barriers to their ability to take part in appropriate practices of oral care. Seniors dealing with arthritis, or other issues that impact the mobility or comfort in their hands and fingers, might find it more difficult to brush, floss, and care for their teeth, while difficulties associated with cognitive function can also be a hindrance.
Concerns with Oral Health
Oral health issues can differ in their reach and intensity, affecting just the specific oral area or playing a part in the development of pervasive problems that impact the body in more overarching ways. Seniors and their caregivers should be proactive about dental care in an attempt to prevent any health problems that can impact seniors’ lives.
- Denture-Induced Stomatitis: Ill-fitting dentures, poor dental hygiene, and accumulation of the Candida albicans fungus can create inflammation of the tissues that lie beneath dentures.
- Dry Mouth: Often a side-effect of medications or other treatments, reduction in the amount of saliva, which usually controls the presence of bacteria and viruses, leaves teeth more vulnerable to decay.
- Jaw Problems: Teeth can tend to move around within the mouth to compensate for spaces or missing teeth, and these shifts can make the jawbone less even, and can contribute to discomfort and difficulty biting or chewing.
- Gum Disease: Gum disease can be caused by a whole host of contributors, from buildup of plaque, tobacco use, poor diet, ill-fitting dentures, or other pervasive health problems. Gum disease can result in the loss of teeth, great discomfort, and other problems.
- Root Decay: As gum tissue recedes and the roots of teeth become exposed, the lack of protection from enamel makes these roots vulnerable to decay from exposure to acidic foods.
- Diabetes: The high blood sugar that comes along with diabetes can result in gum infections, while severe cases of gum disease can also inhibit the body’s ability to make proper use of insulin.
- Heart Disease: A connection has been discovered between gum disease and heart disease, which indicates that maintaining good dental health can help ward off heart problems such as heart attacks or strokes.
- Pneumonia: Breathing bacteria from the mouth into the lungs can lead to pneumonia, but seniors have the opportunity to reduce these chances by ensuring they keep good dental hygiene and reduce the amount of bacteria residing in their mouths.
Oral Care for Seniors
Seniors and their caregivers have the ability to incorporate practices that can help maintain better oral health:
- Brush Twice a Day
- Clean Dentures Daily
- Floss Once a Day
- Monitor/Limit Sugary or Acidic Foods
- Stop Smoking
- Use Fluoridated Toothpaste
- Use Mouthwash Once a Day
- Visit the Dentist Regularly
Seniors and their caregivers must make sure that oral health is a priority in seniors’ personal care routines, so that they can pursue and uphold a positive state of oral health, and by extension, overall wellbeing. Seniors in Ottawa should visit their dentists on a regular basis to check for, and properly address, concerns as they come up.