Keep up with oral health to battle bad breath in seniors
SUMMARY: Senior citizens and older adults struggle fwith bad breath and other oral health issues more often than younger people.
Posted: December 26, 2012
No matter how old we are, many people suffer from bad breath, or halitosis, on a daily basis. From not keeping up with a healthy regimen of brushing, flossing, rinsing and scraping the tongue, to having a poor diet, there are many easy ways to combat stinky breath in younger individuals. Seniors and older adults, on the other hand, may find it difficult to get rid of unsavory breath.
Although many bad breath causes are similar in younger and older individuals, there are many different issues as well. Not only do elderly and older adults have much more wear and tear on their teeth, their dentures and gum disease can lead to issues as well.
"Older people often develop dry mouth," Ann Bosy, one of the founders of the Fresh Breath Clinic in Toronto told the St. Petersburg Times. "They no longer have enough saliva to wash away food particles and bacteria, or to absorb the volatile sulfur compounds produced by some of the bacteria. Also, the elderly sometimes can't clean their teeth as well. Their manual dexterity decreases. Their gums may have receded, and they'll have some periodontal disease, which provides another place for anaerobic bacteria to proliferate."
Elderly people often lose their natural teeth and resort to using dentures or false teeth as a replacement. However, if these are not properly cleaned, bad breath can easily pop up. Food particles can slip between dentures, causing bacterial build up in the mouth resorting in halitosis. It's important to keep up with a daily regimen of cleaning dentures to prevent this. After every meal, dentures should be cleaned and they should be thoroughly brushed twice a day. At night, dentures should be disinfected with either a homemade solution or store bought one that will kill bacteria and allow the mouth to stay minty fresh.
Seniors and older adults are sometimes on one or more different kinds of medication, which may contribute to a less healthy mouth. A major side effect of many medications is dry mouth, which then leads to bad breath. Once saliva production is halted, bad bacteria and germs that cause bad breath cannot be properly washed out of the mouth. Dry mouth is a side effect in many medications for lowering blood pressure, anti-Parkinson, anti-depressants, decongestants, diuretics and sedatives. This is also a side effect of many surgeries because of anesthetics. To combat this issue, individuals should make sure to drink plenty of water throughout the day to wash down food particles and bacteria.
As we age, it's very common to have illnesses and diseases that pop up, such as diabetes. There are several illnesses that cause bad breath, like mouth and throat infections, kidney failure, heart disease, throat or lung cancer and liver disease. Bad breath is also common in patients with Parkinson's or Alzheimer's disease because people are not able to clean their teeth as well, or they may forget to keep up a regimen all together. In these individuals, it's important to visit the dentist on a regular basis to make sure the teeth and mouth are thoroughly cleaned.
Treating bad breath in seniors, elderly adults or individuals who suffer from illnesses can be challenging, but straying away from mouthwash with alcohol in it and using fluoride toothpaste can help battle these issues. Brushing the teeth for a minimum of one minute at least twice a day - in the morning and at night - will help rinse the mouth of food and bacteria. Flossing is also pertinent in oral health because food particles can get trapped between the teeth and a toothbrush can often not reach these spots.