oral health care for the elderly

Oral health continually changes with the progression of age. One needs to be aware of the fact that dental health needs keep increasing with age. According to a study done by Washington Dental Service, older patients above 65 years of age are more likely to have fewer natural teeth. Gum diseases, periodontal problems, and even oral infections affect a large portion of the older generation.

The reason being poor oral health care during old age. (1) With the advancement in the field of dentistry and modern means of patient education, it has become easier for senior citizens to have a healthy mouth. Preventive care is becoming increasingly popular among dental patients. It is helping older patients to maintain healthy teeth for a long time.

Simple dental routines like proper tooth brushing, flossing, and dietary modifications are helping a lot of people among the older generation to maintain a healthy oral environment. If you are worried about your deteriorating oral health, become proactive and read this article to look at some of the easiest oral health care tips. These quick tips will help you to maintain a healthy smile for many years to come.

What are the common dental problems faced by older adults?

As the age progresses, the oral tissues also change and may cause specific dental issues. It is necessary to pay attention to your oral health care needs during this time. (2)

To see overall, age is not the only factor that causes these changes. Some of the main culprits that cause dental problems among older adults are –

  • Poor oral hygiene
  • Underlying systemic diseases like diabetes
  • Auto-immune disorders like Sjogren’s syndrome
  • Arthritis of hands and fingers that reduces manual dexterity
  • Medications

Let’s look at some of the common dental problems that senior citizens frequently face – (3)

Dry mouth

Certain medicines or physical change in the body can cause dry mouth in older adults. Lack of saliva increases the incidence of oral infections in the mouth.

Furthermore, dry mouth can contribute to the formation of oral ulcers and a reduced sense of taste.

Gum disease

Plaque accumulation increases with lack of manual ability to clean the teeth. It further complicates the health of the gums and causes inflammation and recession of gingival tissue.

Other causes of gum disease may include, poor diet, diabetes, ill-fitting dentures, use of tobacco or anemia.

Root decay

One of the most significant results of gum disease among older adults is exposure to the tooth root. Roots of the teeth do not have the protective layer of enamel.

They are easily susceptible to decay as compared to the crown of the tooth.

Attrition

Many years of chewing, biting and grinding often leads to wear and tear of the tooth surface. As the enamel wears away with age, the tooth becomes more prone to dental caries.

In case of severe attrition, the dentinal layer gets exposed causing tooth sensitivity in the patient.

Oral infections

Prolonged systemic diseases and use of medications often changes the bio-environment of the mouth.

Under such circumstances, the patient becomes susceptible to fungal infections like oral thrush and candidiasis.

Denture-induced stomatitis

Poor oral hygiene, poor care of dentures, ill-fitting dentures and build-up of plaque and bacteria in the mouth may lead to this oral condition.

The symptoms include inflamed mucosal area under the denture which can sometimes become ulcerated.

What can senior adults do to maintain good oral hygiene?

Several simple techniques can help older adults to effectively maintain healthy teeth and good oral health for a long time. (4)

Some of the oral health care tips are as follows –

  • Tooth brushing – using a soft-bristled toothbrush and a fluoridated toothpaste can quickly remove the plaque from the tooth surface. Furthermore, brushing two times a day ensures a clean mouth and strengthens the teeth with the fluoride.
  • Addition of floss and an anti-bacterial mouthwash can provide long term benefits of having a healthy mouth. A water floss is a good investment for patients with limited manual dexterity.
  • Diet – consuming a balanced diet with equal portions of fruits, vegetables, proteins, and dairy products can provide excellent oral health and well-being. Milk, salmon, and almonds are calcium-rich foods which maintain strong teeth.
  • Quit tobacco – tobacco of any form has proven to cause mouth and throat cancer. A smoker is seven times more likely to develop periodontal issues and oral cancer as compared to a non-smoker. Tooth decay is also an increasing issue among tobacco chewers.
  • Keep yourself hydrated – often certain medications and increased alcohol intake cause dryness of the mouth. It is advisory to look for alternative drugs and limit the use of alcohol to prevent chronic dehydration and dry mouth. Plenty of water and sugar-free gums can help to maintain the moisture in the mouth.
  • Visit your dentist regularly to stay updated with the changes happening in the mouth.

What is the importance of routine dental examinations?

A thorough history and oral examination at a dental office helps the dentist to check the following –

  • Teeth discolorations
  • Change in bite
  • Functions of the temporomandibular joint
  • The health of the lymph nodes and salivary glands
  • Changes in the tongue, gums and oral mucosa
  • Tooth decay or periodontal problems
  • A requirement of tooth replacement
  • Maintenance of oral hygiene

All these inspections play a crucial role to fix any dental problem at an early stage and relieve the patient from the misery of tooth pain and gum irritation.

Therefore, routine dental visits are mandatory for older adults to maintain good oral health over a long time.

Take away message

Oral health care is equally important among older adults as is the overall health. With increasing age, the body, as well as the tissues in the mouth, changes rapidly.

A healthy mouth is a gateway to a happy life and well-being. Therefore, it is essential for the senior population to understand the importance of oral health.

Educating them with simple oral health care routines can save older adults from the misery of losing teeth at a faster rate.

This article is an introduction to familiarize common dental problems faced by older generations and how it can be resolved by taking care of your oral health care needs daily.

Additionally, routine dental visits can take you a long way to fix any dental problems at its initial stages.

So, what are you waiting for? Read this article and make the most out of it to maintain a healthy mouth for a lifetime.