The Importance of Dental Health For Seniorsadmin
Dental care revolves around the teeth and gums, but that doesn’t mean dental health only affects your mouth. Oral hygiene plays a huge role in your overall physical health. If proper dental care is neglected, the consequences could affect the vital organs and immune system too. Unfortunately, as seniors age, this crucial element of their wellness regimen is often difficult to manage alone.
Oral health should be a lifelong priority, but as memory and mobility decline, it gets more difficult to keep up with oral hygiene as a senior. Because aging introduces new health risks, it’s especially important for seniors and caregivers to have the support and information they need to maintain good dental health.
Why Senior Dental Care Is Important
Daily brushing and flossing is the best way to eliminate harmful bacteria that would otherwise build up, damaging teeth and entering the bloodstream. This is true no matter how old you are, but seniors are already prone to the same health conditions caused by poor oral hygiene. By prioritizing oral hygiene, seniors and caregivers can minimize these risks and achieve the following:
Fight Heart Disease
Left untreated, gum disease could eventually cause heart disease. This happens when the arteries start to swell in response to bacterial infections, constricting blood flow and increasing your heart attack risks. Good oral hygiene will prevent this bacteria from building up, lowering your risk of stroke, heart attack, and other fatal complications.
Boost Immune Systems
Aging weakens the immune system, and so does poor oral hygiene. Fortunately, flossing daily will have the opposite effect, keeping the immune system in fighting shape. Seniors are already more vulnerable to contagious illnesses, but poor oral health increases the risk of pneumonia and other life-threatening illnesses. Flossing removes bacteria before seniors can breathe the harmful particles into their lungs.
Prevent Sensitive Teeth
Tooth sensitivity isn’t inevitable. Fractures and worn enamel will make teeth more sensitive to certain temperatures and tastes, but brushing can prevent this process. Just don’t brush too aggressively because this can damage the teeth or gums and cause sensitivity too.
Prevent Dry Mouth
Dry mouth is a common side effect of many medications, but if no one notices, it can become a debilitating condition. Lack of saliva will loosen dentures, decay teeth, and trigger gum disease, so it’s important to pay attention. Signs of dry mouth include cracks and sores on the outside of the mouth, loose dentures, and difficulty eating, talking, swallowing, and tasting.
Dental Health Habits For Seniors
Older people are more likely to experience dental problems, but you can reduce your risks by paying attention to your oral health. As you age, it’s important to do the following:
Visit the Dentist Regularly
Professional cleanings will prevent decay and bacterial infection. It’s important to schedule them twice a year or more. These appointments also give your dentist a chance to keep track of your oral health and detect problems early. Even if you wear dentures, your dentist needs to inspect your gums and make sure the dentures still work for you.
Brush Twice a Day
Brush at least twice a day with fluoride toothpaste, and make sure each brushing session lasts at least two minutes. Turn off the tap as you brush to conserve water, and consider using a timer or stopwatch to make sure you don’t rinse early.
Floss Every Day
Don’t forget to clean the spaces between your gums and teeth. This is where food particles and saliva will build up, slowly causing damage to your mouth and the rest of your body. Prevent this problem by flossing every single day, which is so beneficial it could actually add more than six years to your lifespan.
How Caregivers Can Help Seniors With Dental Health
Dementia is one of many reasons that seniors face higher oral health risks. This age-related condition affects memory and moods, making it more difficult to prioritize personal grooming. However, if you care for a senior with dementia, you can still make sure they don’t neglect their mouth. Monitor their oral care closely, especially after meals and before bed every night, and make sure dental visits stay consistent. If they can no longer brush their teeth – or don’t brush sufficiently – you may need to step in.
For example, even if a patient is still physically capable of brushing their teeth, they may need reminders about how to do it. Offer simple, step-by-step instructions, from holding the toothbrush to applying the toothpaste and brushing. You may demonstrate on yourself to make it clearer, or guide their hands with yours. If they can no longer brush their teeth or dentures, make sure you or another caregiver continues to do it twice daily, checking for signs of dry mouth and decay every time.
Keep On Smiling
Aging is inevitable, but poor oral hygiene doesn’t have to be. If you know what obstacles to expect and understand the health benefits of regular dental care, it will be easier to avoid common complications and make senior dental care a permanent priority.