Dental issues for seniors can become common for many, and include everything from chronic dry mouth to gum disease, gingivitis and others – even more so than for younger people. While everyone needs to keep up with their oral care routines, elderly dental care is vitally important too, for a wide variety of reasons.
Oral Health for Seniors – It affects More than Just the Mouth
As is the case with younger people, seniors can suffer from dental and oral problems that directly impact the rest of their bodies, and it needs to be taken seriously. Many diseases in the body have symptoms that actually originate in the mouth. With examination, dentists can find evidence of anemia, diabetes, arthritis, osteoporosis, diet deficiencies, and even heart and liver disease. Another example involves tooth infections. Did you know infected teeth can potentially cause an infection of the inner lining of the heart and heart valves? As research continues and we learn just how oral health influences conditions such as these, it becomes ever more apparent that seniors especially need to keep up with their geriatric dental appointments and routines.
At the same token, diseases found in the rest of the body can affect the mouth. One example of this is diabetes, which can slow the body’s ability to heal. If a senior who is diabetic has gum disease, it very well could take much longer than average to effectively treat the gum disease.
Overcoming the Challenges of Good Elderly Dental Care
Maintaining good oral hygiene is oftentimes more of a challenge for the geriatric community than it is for those who are younger for several reasons. First, ease of mobility is commonly an issue for seniors, whether it be due to a condition such as arthritis or the inability to walk as well as they used to. This means it is also more of a challenge to keep up with regular dental appointments and professional cleanings and examinations. However, it’s important for younger generations to assist their elders in not only making these appointments, but also ensuring that seniors make it to the appointments.
Other conditions can also make it challenging for seniors to continue practicing good dental care; arthritis, for example, can make brushing painful. Perhaps they can no longer stand at the sink for very long anymore. It’s important for those who are younger to inquire with their elderly loved ones about their oral health and recognize when and if help with geriatric dentistry care is needed.
Critical Care: Maintaining Check-Up Appointments for Senior Health Safety
Something many people who are not seniors may not think about often are the dentures their elderly loved one wears. It’s critical that elderly dental care includes regular visits to the dentist to not only have their teeth checked and cleaned, but also to have their dentures refit and/or repaired, if needed. Missing teeth and dentures that no longer fit well can lead to serious issues – people can aspirate (inhale) the food they chew, causing food to enter the lungs and cause pneumonia. They also can cause food to slip down the throat while chewing, leading to choking.
Ill-fitting dentures, decaying teeth and missing teeth can also cause malnutrition in our seniors. When natural teeth are lost, the jaw bones begin to shrink away, causing the jaw to slowly and continually change. Seniors may limit the foods they eat because it’s too difficult to eat. The elderly need all the nutrition they can get, and poor dental hygiene and poor condition of the mouth should never interfere with nutrition.
A Little Help Goes a Long Way
If you have a loved one who is in need of help with their geriatric dental care, it’s important that you help when needed and that you discuss your concerns with a dental professional. Getting the best oral care possible throughout the senior years can not only impact his or her self-image and esteem, but also his or her nutrition, safety and their overall health, as well.