Elderly and Dental Health
Our teeth are designed to last a lifetime, but seniors have increasing difficulty in keeping teeth and gums healthy. Tooth decay and gum disease can often get in the way. When teeth aren’t cleaned properly or often enough, plaque can form. Plaque can cause tooth decay, damaging the enamel that covers your teeth. Plaque that stays on teeth can form tartar, a hard layer that you can’t clean away by brushing.
Plaque and tartar can create a gum infection called gingivitis. People with gingivitis have red, swollen gums that bleed easily. Gums can also naturally recede over years of brushing. If gingivitis isn’t treated, it can lead to a more serious gum infection called periodontitis. Over time, periodontitis can loosen teeth, and a dentist may have to remove teeth lacking a proper foundation. Obviously, this can be painful and expensive.
Dental problems can also result from taking certain medications, having diabetes, having dry mouth, eating poorly or not seeing a dentist regularly. Remind your elderly parents with the old phrase that they used on you…”you need to brush after every meal.”
Simple steps to help keep teeth and gums healthy at any age:
– Brush your teeth twice a day. Use a properly fitting tootbrush. Soft-head bristle is recommended. And use fluoride toothpaste.
– Floss between your teeth once a day. This will help clean areas that can’t be reached by brushing.
– See the dentist at least twice a year for a checkup and cleaning.
– Eat a balanced diet and avoid sugary drinks. Homecare staff can assist with compliance!
– Stay away from cigarettes and chewing tobacco.
Toothbrushes come in an amazing array of sizes, colors, and designs. Find something that fits for you. There are also electric toothbrushes that can change speeds based on the individual preferences.
For elders with missing teeth, a local dentist can fit you with dentures or put in dental implants.
Take note of constant mouth sores, or lumps and rough spots in your mouth. Are you experiencing any pain or numbness? Is there any difficulty in chewing or jaw movement? These characteristics could be early warning signs of oral cancer, which is why regular visits to the dentist are critical.
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John D. Miller is the founder/owner of Home Care Partners, LLC, a Massachusetts business providing private duty, personalized in-home assistance and companion care services to those needing help in daily activities and household functions.
Phone: (781) 378-2164