Oral Health in the Elderly

Oral health may worsen as one gets older if not properly taken cared of while still young.

According to the American Dental Association, neglecting oral care will put the elderly to an increased risk for caries, periodontal disease and infection, especially those patients with severe cognitive impairment. (www.ada.org/aging and dental health)

Furthermore, neglecting oral health may affect the general health of an individual. Since chewing and taste perception become inadequate in aging, nutrition may be compromised. (PA Razak 2014. Geriatric Oral Health: A Review Article NCBI-NIH. www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)

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Poor nutritional status can lead to general poor health condition.

Here are some facts about oral health (www.seniorsoralhealth.org).

  • Poor dental health impacts overall health and increases the risk for diabetes and heart disease.
  • About 75% of people aged 60+ have only some of their natural teeth.
  • Nearly 23% of adults ages 65-74 have severe gum disease.
  • Dry mouth, often caused by prescription and over-the-counter medications, is a problem for 30% of older adults. It contributes to significant tooth decay and gum disease.

Poor oral health has been particularly evident in high levels of tooth loss, dental caries experience and the prevalence rates of periodontal disease, xerostomia (or dry mouth), and oral precancer/cancer. (www.who.int/oral_health publications)

Preventing oral disease therefore will contribute to a good quality of life in senior years.

It is not difficult to achieve good oral health.

Keeping the mouth clean including the teeth, gums and tongue is the cornerstone of achieving good oral health.

The seniorsoralhealth.org has these tips to a healthy mouth:

  • Brush twice a day with fluoride toothpaste.
  • Floss once a day.
  • Get regular dental checkups, even if you have dentures.
  • Limit intake of starchy snacks, sugared candy, and sugary drinks. Remember to brush teeth after snacking. Rinsing mouth with water after snacks can reduce the risk of decay.
  • Manage dry mouth symptoms. Drink extra water (fluoridated is best) or use sugar-free gum, candy or mints to moisten mouth (those made with xylitol are best).  Saliva substitutes and oral moisturizers can also be effective. Talk to your pharmacist or dentist for other options.
  • If you have diabetes, pay extra attention to your oral health.
  • Ask your dentist or doctor about extra fluoride. Fluoride protects against tooth decay.
  • Check your  mouth regularly for sores. If you notice unusual lumps, bumps or sores that don’t resolve within 2 weeks, see your doctor or dentist.
  • Don’t use tobacco

 

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