Comprehensive guide on dental health and care for seniors
Based on the official ADA recommendations and other reputable sources.
Seniors are categorized as individuals over 65. This demographic is growing every year. It is predicted that by 2060 every fourth American will be a senior.
Geriatric dentistry is going to grow in importance immensely in the near future. Being aware of elders’ dental problems and how to deal with them is more important now than ever before.
What puts seniors at higher risk of dental problems?
It is not age itself that makes the elderly more vulnerable to certain dental conditions. Risk factors include:
The average elder takes 4-5 prescription drugs and 2-3 OTC products regularly. Many of those can cause oral issues. Inhalers in particular can lead to fungal infections in your mouth.
Senile dementia, Alzheimer, and eating disorders all make proper oral care difficult. As a result, mentally ill patients often neglect oral hygiene and are 3 times more likely to lose teeth.
Many elders are physically incapable of taking care of their mouth properly. Illnesses that come with age, for example arthritis, make vigorous brushing and precise flossing difficult.
How is seniors’ dental health connected to systemic diseases?
The state of your mouth is closely linked to your general health. Many systemic diseases can be caused by dental issues.
Food debris breaking down in the mouth can cause bacteria to be breathed into the lungs.
Cardiac issues (like strokes and attacks) are linked to gum disease, cavities, and missing teeth.
Ill-fitting dentures that rub against the gums trigger growth of lesions and lumps.
On the other hand, many conditions that affect the entire body have manifestations in the mouth. This means a dentist might be the first to spot the problem.
What are the most common elderly dental problems?
50-65% of removable denture wearers have thrush. This issue is characterized by a white rash inside the mouth. It is a yeast infection, which can also occur in other places on the body. The candida fungus resides in your mouth naturally, but some medications can upset the balance, causing this condition.
- corticosteroids or antibiotics intake (common after dental surgery),
- uncontrolled diabetes,
- poor oral hygiene,
- not removing/cleaning your prosthesis daily.
- antifungal medications that you take for 10-14 days,
- removing and cleaning the prosthesis daily.
The age between 60 and 70 is the peak of oral cancer incidence. Oral cancer shows up in the mouth as a sore or lump that doesn’t go away. It can focus on any soft tissues including the tongue, cheeks, lips, the palate, and the pharynx. Early diagnosis is vital, as this does not have to be a life-threatening disease.
Oral cancer is the eighth most common type in the world.
- tobacco use,
- excessive drinking of alcohol,
- family history of cancer,
- surgery to remove the lesion followed by radiation,
- or chemotherapy.
What are the best dental care tips for seniors?
Elderly dental care is very important but also neglected very often. Do your best to keep your mouth strong and healthy by following these oral hygiene tips.
Maintain dental hygiene
Clean your mouth and gums properly every day. Use fluoride toothpaste and drink fluoridated water to remineralize your teeth and neutralize your mouth. Consider an electric toothbrush as it makes up most of the brushing action.
Visit a dentist regularly
Have your mouth checked out at least once a year, as advised by the ADA. Your dentist will examine your mouth and help plan out potential dental work. You can save on every dentist visit with a dental discount plan.
Take care of your dentures
Remove the denture at night and clean it at least once a day. Wash your hands before putting it in to prevent infections, lesions, and rubbing. Remember to also let a professional inspect it yearly. This helps to determine when it may benefit from an adjustment, reline, or repair.
Do not smoke cigarettes
Popular methods include nicotine patches or gum, counseling, and hypnosis. Patients often go for a combination. Many medical insurance policies cover at least some of the costs of quitting. You can find more information on SmokeFree.gov.
Keep a balanced diet
The following minerals and vitamins should be a part of your diet: calcium, potassium, phosphorus, and vitamins K, C, and A. Spinach, broccoli, and kale are rich in those substances.
Control your alcohol intake
Drink no more than the recommended amount of alcohol units per week and have at least a few regular drink-free days. Don’t brush your teeth immediately after acidic drinks such as wine or juice, as it can cause damage to the enamel.
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