The Importance of Oral Health for Seniors

Often seniors do not place the same priority for their teeth as they do for other health issues.  Many people see teeth as a vanity concern that is less important than other problems that they are facing.  What they may not realize is how much dental issues can contribute or even cause other health problems.  Oral health is just as important for the aging person as for the young person who wants a winning smile.

Oral Problems in the Elderly

Older people are particularly susceptible to certain oral problems.  Among these are:

  • Dry mouth from a lack of saliva
  • Reduced sense of taste
  • Change in tooth color
  • Gum disease and tooth decay
  • Tooth loss
  • Thrush
  • Uneven jawbone from teeth loss
  • Stomatitis from dentures – inflammation of tissues beneath the dentures

While not all of these problems are directly related to seniors, changes in the body do contribute.  Another contributing factor is the fact that seniors may have difficulty caring for their teeth and gums as they get older.  Arthritis in their hands may make it hard for them to brush their teeth or to do as thorough of a job.  Lifestyle habits can be seen after years of certain behaviors.  This can include discoloration due to smoking or drinking caffeine along with other factors.

How Seniors Can Care for Their Mouth and Teeth

Several things can be done to protect gums and teeth, prevent issues, and control any current problems.  This includes:

  1. Daily brushing and flossing.  If this is too difficult for the senior, a homecare services caregiver can assist with this task.
  2. Attend regular oral exams.
  3. Have dentures cleaned regularly.
  4. Use anti-bacterial mouthwash to prevent problems.

They should also pay attention to any changes regarding their mouth.  This can include pain or soreness or changes in taste.  It can also mean any changes in how their dentures fit or if they have become loose or uncomfortable.

Dentures should be cared for to keep them fitting right and looking good.  They should be cleaned daily with a mild cleaner.  Do not use harsh cleansers on them.  When they are not being worn, dentures should be kept in water and a denture solution; however, do not place them in hot water or it can warp them and alter their shape.

The Importance of Regular Checkups

The mouth can provide valuable information about the senior’s overall health.  Medical experts have realized that many diseases and conditions have symptoms that affect the oral area.  This includes eating disorders, heart disease, liver disease, anemia, arthritis, diabetes, osteoporosis, and other diseases.

The condition of the mouth also affects the rest of the body and how the senior feels.  Some research studies suggest that people with periodontal disease have double the risk of heart disease.  It may also be linked with higher risks for strokes and other bacterial infections.

People with some diseases such as diabetes may have more problems with their mouth.  When they have a sore, it can take longer to heal or even get worse.

Homecare Services Can Help

Professional caregivers can assist seniors with their oral care.  If it has become difficult for the person to brush their teeth either because they can’t hold the toothbrush as well or stand at the sink for long periods, assistance from a caregiver can make the job easier.

They can also encourage the senior to drink more water to reduce the affects of dry mouth.  Seniors can also suck on sugar-free candy or use lip moisturizers to help counteract the problems.  Dry mouth can increase the opportunity for root decay, so it is essential to work on preventing this.

A senior’s jawbone changes shape from the loss of teeth and this can make dentures not fit correctly.  As a result, it can become painful to eat some foods and their nutrition may suffer.  Caregivers can monitor this and inform you so you can take action to get their dentures refitted.

Oral health is more than just having pretty teeth; it’s having a healthy mouth and a healthy body.  It’s important to monitor this as much as any other health concerns.

Our caregivers at Carefect Homecare Services can help you care for your senior loved ones so they can stay independent and in the comfort of their own home. They can assist with tasks that are difficult for the senior to handle on its own such as oral care.  When your loved one has a sore or is having problems with their gums, the caregivers can prepare foods that are easy to eat and nutritious.