Guest Post Author: Susan Ashby | Super Senior Care
When it comes to the dental health of older adults with dentures there are a lot of misconceptions. Many people believe that once someone has dentures, their oral health is no longer important. Unfortunately, these myths can make it difficult for seniors to take proper care of themselves. Here are 13 facts about senior dental health to help you take the best care possible of your oral health.
Poor oral health is linked to pneumonia
Both poor oral health and hygiene can lead to seniors accidentally inhaling food and drink. For someone who has healthy lungs, their body can clear the debris. For seniors especially, this aspiration can lead to pneumonia. People with lung disease, stroke, dementia, and neurologic conditions are especially at risk. Thankfully, receiving proper medical and dental care can reduce a person’s risk.
Risk of gum disease
Did you know that, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 70 percent of people with gum disease are over the age of 65? A person’s risk goes up with tobacco use, certain medications, poor nutrition, and health issues. Many people aren’t aware, but gum disease can actually worsen existing heart issues. It also increases a person’s chances of heart attack and stroke.
Dry mouth is common with medications and age
A third of seniors struggle with dry mouth. A common side effect of medications, our risk for dry mouth tends to increase with age. Many health issues also cause dry mouths, such as Parkinson’s and diabetes. Unfortunately, dry mouth can cause big problems. Without as much saliva, it’s difficult to clear the mouth of food after eating. The more food stays in the mouth, the easier it is for plaque, cavities, and infections to take hold. It can also make it more difficult to swallow, which could lead to aspiration pneumonia.
Root decay, worn enamel, and cavities are common with age
Your risk for root decay, worn enamel, discolored teeth, and cavities all increases with age. Even artificial teeth can’t escape it. Dentures can be affected by dry mouth and poor dental hygiene just as much as natural teeth. It’s important to continue to take care of false teeth just as you would the ones you were born with.
Hard to keep up dental health
It can be incredibly difficult to achieve and maintain good dental health. First of all, it’s costly. Any work you need to be done may not be covered by insurance if you even have dental coverage. So many health conditions affect dental health, too. If a senior is struggling to brush their teeth due to arthritis in their hands, they’re likely to need more work. It can also be difficult to get transportation to dental appointments. Thankfully, having elderly caregivers around can help alleviate some of these issues. They can provide transportation, help with daily hygiene and more.
Use an electric toothbrush
While both manual and electric toothbrushes are effective, electric may be the best route to go for seniors. Electric toothbrushes are easier on the joints, especially your hands. They also help promote and improve gum health. They are more expensive, though, to purchase and maintain than their manual counterparts. Still, there are more accessible options.
Brush after every meal
When we were young, we were taught to brush in the morning and at night. Research has shown that it is most effective to brush after every single meal. This gives plaque less time to build up and has a more positive effect on overall oral health.
It may not be the most enjoyable experience, but flossing daily is important. Unfortunately, traditional flossing can be difficult for seniors without as much hand dexterity. There are alternatives that can ease difficulty, from floss handles to water-based flossers.
Use mouthwash at least once a day
Like floss, mouthwash helps to reach small food particles that can hide between teeth. If you struggle with dry mouth, look for a mouthwash without alcohol. Those with alcohol can dry out your mouth even more. There are types of mouthwashes and sprays that can help fight dry mouth, so definitely check those out.
Clean dentures daily, leaving them out of your mouth overnight if possible
Traditional toothpaste is too abrasive for dentures. Using toothpaste can cause a breakdown in dentures and leave openings for bacteria to grow. Instead, use a cleanser specifically formulated for dentures. It’s best to sleep without dentures in, so that’s a perfect time to clean them.
Don’t use tobacco
Smoking tobacco can promote dry mouth. Additionally, tobacco of any kind increases your risk of both oral and throat cancer.
Eat a healthier diet
The less sugar in your diet, the less likely you’ll be to experience poor dental health. Other foods to limit or avoid include those that are spicy, acidic or dry. Focus on eating healthy and drinking water in place of junk food and soda.
See your dentist regularly
Waiting until a tooth is painful is a bad idea. By the time something hurts, costly damage may already be done. Getting regular dental checkups and cleanings can also lower your risk for root decay, cavities and more. At the very least, regular dental visits will help your care team catch and fix any damage as quickly as possible.
If you follow these steps, you’re sure to maintain dental health well into your later years.
About the Author:
Susan Ashby joined the Superior Senior Care team in July of 2014 as Community Relations Manager. With over 27 years of experience in geriatric health, Susan brings a wealth of knowledge and insight to Superior Senior Care and plays an integral part in connecting consumers and communities with resources for independent living.
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