Oral and dental health are linked to the overall health of our bodies’ in important ways, so taking proper care of our mouths and teeth is more important than we may think.
Many different types of oral and dental health issues exist, some of which have an impact solely on the mouth and others that have the ability to alter health in ways that extend into other areas of the body. It is, therefore, deeply important that seniors and those who care for and support them prioritize oral and dental care and tend to practices and behaviours that aim to keep seniors healthy and comfortable in their bodies.
Aging and Oral Health
There are a whole bunch of varying individual factors that come into play when it comes to seniors’ oral and dental health, the state of which depend largely on personal circumstances and histories. In addition to the general wear and tear that takes place over passing years, there might also be genetic or developed predispositions to oral and dental health problems, side-effects from medications that impact oral and dental health, and other similar factors that become relevant to seniors’ oral and dental health. It is also worth remembering that seemingly unrelated changes that are connected to seniors mental and physical health can also come to create problems that alter their ability to perform appropriate practices of oral and dental care. Seniors who have arthritis, or other issues that change the mobility or comfort in their hands and fingers, might find it more difficult to brush, floss, and care for their teeth and mouths, while challenges associated with cognitive function can also create problems.
Concerns with Oral and Dental Health
There is a lot of diversity in how oral and dental health issues can vary in their reach and severity. While some impact just the specific oral area, others may play a part in the development of more pervasive problems that influence the body in more widespread ways. Seniors and their caregivers should be proactive about oral and dental care in order to best prevent any health problems that can impact seniors’ lives in an unpleasant way.
- Root Decay: As gum tissue recedes and the roots of teeth become exposed, the lack of protection from enamel makes these roots vulnerable to decay from exposure to acidic foods.
- Denture-Induced Stomatitis: Ill-fitting dentures, poor dental hygiene, and accumulation of the Candida albicans fungus can create inflammation of the tissues that lie beneath dentures.
- Jaw Problems: Teeth can tend to move around within the mouth to compensate for spaces or missing teeth, and these shifts can make the jawbone less even, and can contribute to discomfort and difficulty biting or chewing.
- Dry Mouth: Often a side-effect of medications or other treatments, reduction in the amount of saliva, which usually controls the presence of bacteria and viruses, leaves teeth more vulnerable to decay.
- Gum Disease: Gum disease can be caused by a whole bunch of different contributors, from buildup of plaque, tobacco use, poor diet, ill-fitting dentures, or other pervasive health problems. Gum disease can result in the loss of teeth, great discomfort, and other problems.
- Pneumonia: Breathing bacteria from the mouth into the lungs can lead to pneumonia, but seniors have the opportunity to reduce these chances by ensuring they keep good oral and dental hygiene to reduce the amount of bacteria living in their mouths.
- Diabetes: The high blood sugar that comes along with diabetes can result in gum infections, while severe cases of gum disease can also inhibit the body’s ability to make proper use of insulin.
- Heart Disease: A connection has been discovered between gum disease and heart disease, which indicates that maintaining good oral and dental health can help prevent heart problems such as heart attacks or strokes.
Oral and Dental Care for Seniors
Seniors and their caregivers have the power to carry out practices and behaviours that can help maintain better oral and dental health:
- Clean Dentures Daily
- Use Fluoridated Toothpaste
- Brush Twice a Day
- Visit the Dentist Regularly
- Use Mouthwash Once a Day
- Stop Smoking
- Monitor/Limit Sugary or Acidic Foods
- Floss Once a Day
It is important that seniors and their caregivers ensure that oral and dental health remain priorities in seniors’ personal care routines so that they can keep up a healthy level of oral and dental care that can help to support overall wellbeing. Seniors in Kitchener-Waterloo-Cambridge should visit their dentists on a routine basis to check for, and properly address, concerns as they come to light.