Monday, August 29, 2016

The Importance of Oral Health for Seniors

No different than for all other individuals, daily brushing and flossing for seniors is crucial for good oral health. Unfortunately, age-related health conditions like arthritis can make it difficult to brush or floss. Also, with advanced age comes a lack of desire for individuals to maintain daily hygiene habits, like brushing their teeth.

Because seniors can be at risk for increased oral health problems, it's important to pay close attention to their oral health. Caregivers of elderly parents or loved ones should also assist in, and insist on, daily oral hygiene, including brushing twice a day with toothpaste that contains fluoride, flossing at least once a day, rising with an antiseptic mouthwash one or twice a day to reduce bacteria that cause plaque and gum disease, and scheduling regular cleaning and exams with their dentist.

Some common oral health concerns that can occur in seniors include:

  • Tooth decay (cavities) - Not just for school-age children, anybody, including seniors can develop cavities.
  • Gum diseases - Gingivitis and Periodontitis, two types of gum disease, can occur when seniors don't maintain adequate oral hygiene. 
  • Dry mouth - Occurs when you don't have enough saliva to keep the mouth wet. This can cause difficulties in chewing, eating, swallowing, and talking, and can also increase the risk of tooth decay.

Other conditions included darkened teeth, decreased sense of taste, root decay, tooth loss, uneven jawbone, thrush (an infection in the mouth caused by the overgrowth of the candida fungus), and denture-caused Stomatitis, an inflammation of the mouth and lips.

Certain medications may also affect oral health and can require dental treatment adjustments. If seniors experience any changes, or have concerns about how their medications are affecting their mouth or teeth, they should check with their doctor.

In addition to regularly scheduled cleanings and exams, seniors should contact their dentist if they notice any changes in their mouths, including loose teeth, increased tooth sensitivity, difficulty tasting, chewing, or swallowing, pain, sores, or bumps, bleeding, or swelling.

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