Oral healthcare for seniors
SUMMARY: Maintaining a healthy mouth is important for people of all ages, but seniors should pay close attention their oral hygiene practices.
Posted: May 23, 2013
Keeping a clean and healthy mouth is important no matter how old you are, but oral hygiene becomes increasingly pertinent with age. Since oral health is systematically linked to the entire body, maintaining a quality regimen of brushing and flossing should be a daily practice for seniors. However, meeting these needs can also be increasingly challenging. For example, senior citizens may have issues seeing how clean their teeth are or applying enough pressure to get rid of dental plaque.
Oral hygiene and your health
The build-up of bacteria in the mouth has been linked to a number of ailments. Bacteria cause gum disease, which can lead to heart disease, diabetes and other disorders, according to some researchers. This is one of the many reasons why keeping a healthy mouth is so important. In addition, build-up of dental plaque or bacteria can result in tooth decay and cavities.
Individuals experiencing bleeding gums or visible root surfaces should take extra measures to ensure they are practicing a complete oral health regimen. These are signs of periodontal disease and can pose a health risk to the entire body.
Brushing and flossing
Seniors may practice poor brushing techniques, which is one of the leading causes of insufficient oral hygiene. It can be helpful to use an electronic toothbrush that does a lot of the work for you. This is especially convenient for seniors who have trouble applying appropriate pressure to their teeth. It can also be handy to enlarge the handle of the toothbrush to get a better grip. If you have arthritis or other joint problems, you can wrap a sponge or soft ball around the handle, making it easier to grasp.
Dentists and oral hygienists will often tell you that flossing is incredibly important because it gets rid of bacteria and plaque that builds up around the gum line and between the teeth where a toothbrush cannot reach. For seniors, flossing can be even more challenging than brushing. Consider investing in a water flosser that uses high pressure liquid to break up plaque between the teeth and in hard-to?-reach places. This can also help significantly in fighting against halitosis.
Individuals who wear dentures should take just as much care for these as they would their real teeth. Bacteria can stick to full or partial dentures, so if they are not properly cleaned, this can cause halitosis and an overall unhealthy mouth. It is important to take dentures out for at least four hours each day so that the lining of the mouth and the dentures can be properly cleaned.
Certain medications can cause problems in the mouth, so it is important to take note of any side effects that are noticed while taking prescription drugs. For example, dry mouth is a common side effect of a number of different medications. Dry mouth can cause several ailments as well. Without proper saliva flow, bacteria gets trapped in the oral cavity, increasing the chances of tooth decay and gum disease. In addition, dry mouth is known to create problems for denture wearers. Symptoms of dry mouth include a red, raw tongue, frequent thirst, problems speaking or chewing, dry nasal passages and a sore throat.
Visiting your dentist is important for people of all ages, but seniors should be even more conscientious about making regular appointments. Since it's possible that daily brushing and flossing isn't doing a proper job of getting rid of dental plaque, dentists can be sure to scrape away the bacteria and build-up that can cause gum disease, bad breath and tooth decay.