As we age, dental care becomes more and more important as we enter our senior years. While our first thought is to associate this life stage with tooth loss, many seniors are actually keeping their natural teeth for longer, due to good oral health habits. A clean mouth can go a long way — regardless if you have natural teeth, dental implants, or dentures. Here are some of the reasons why dental care is so important for seniors.
Oral health impacts overall health
A clear link has been made between several diseases that can impact senior citizens that result from poor oral health. According to the Ontario Dental Hygienists’ Association, an undiagnosed periodontal disease can lead to diabetes, heart problems like heart disease, respiratory disorders, and even stroke.
What’s also important to know, is that if you or your family member already have the same existing condition, there’s an increased risk of worsening it or even creating new symptoms.
It’s important to understand how periodontal disease works to understand how it links to the rest of the body. Periodontal disease is one of the most common oral health problems. It is essentially caused by a long build-up of bacteria and plaque over time, which causes inflammation of the gums. When this reaction spreads in the mouth, it attacks the underlying bone. Eventually, this is what causes tooth decay and tooth loss — and the disease enters the body, putting it at risk for disease.
The symptoms of periodontal disease include:
- Itching, swollen and bleeding gums
- Loose teeth
- Shifted teeth
- Bad breath
- Gum recession
- Dry Mouth
More on Dry Mouth
Dry mouth is not only an early symptom of periodontal disease, it is an uncomfortable condition on its own that many senior citizens face. It can be caused by a number of sources such as certain medications and health treatment plans such as radiation therapy, that is often administered to Cancer patients.
Medicines for high blood pressure, heart problems, and antidepressants have been linked with dry mouth causing dehydration and affecting a person’s ability to taste, chew, speak or even swallow. Dry mouth also can lead to periodontal disease, eventual tooth decay, and tooth loss.
If you see any of the signs of periodontal disease, it is best to contact your dentist as soon as possible for a checkup.
If you’re a senior citizen or if you care for one, it’s important to know that diet, regular teeth maintenance (dental check-ups) and a thorough home care program are some of the most important preventative measures for keeping oral health in good standing. How you take care of your dentures can also make a huge difference in keeping a healthy mouth.
For added protection and further prevention we suggest the following:
- Use an antimicrobial mouthwash to prevent or fight periodontal disease
- Use a water flosser or one-handle flosser to remove food and debris more easily if traditional flossing is difficult
- Use a powered wide handle toothbrush to ensure you can brush at a 45-degree angle in circular motion
- Clean your dentures (if any) thoroughly twice a day with warm water and brushing with denture paste
- Soak dentures overnight if not in use to prevent drying and rinse them in warm water before using
- Ensure that your dentures are updated every 5-7 years
- Keep track of any new changes in your mouth and discuss them with your dentist
- Ask about oral cancer screenings
- Follow your dentist’s advice or instructions carefully
It’s completely possible for a person to enter their later years free of worry and with their natural teeth intact. Being armed with knowledge of dental diseases that affect senior citizens, following preventative measures and seeing your dentist regularly will make oral care a breeze!