Tips for Elder Dental Care
Decades ago, it was assumed that aging meant losing our natural teeth. But today, older adults have most of their natural teeth, and are actually keeping them longer. The truth is, the basics of dental care are largely the same – healthy mouth and teeth are part of a quality life. In fact, proper oral health is much more involved than just the mouth, teeth and gums – there’s impact on the entire body, and for the older generation, this could have serious ramifications.
Dental care for the elderly shouldn’t be underestimated. Recent research studies have shown that bacteria (and infections) in the mouth may well be associated with strokes, heart disease, and even diabetes. For the most part, and regardless of age, it only takes regular maintenance and effective dental care to ensure healthy teeth and gums: daily brushing and flossing; good eating habits; regular visits to the dentist; and most important of all, smoking cessation.
Daily brushing and flossing
Daily brushing and flossing is as important for elder dental care as it is for children’s dental care. Even for those who have never been cavity prone, cavity-risk actually increases with age. One reason for this is “dry mouth” – quite common for those taking prescription meds.
For those with arthritis (or similar), an electric toothbrush is ideal for effective dental care. As for flossing, it’s as important as brushing. Here, various options are available: conventional floss; pre-threaded “flossers”; even tiny floss brushes. Here again, regularity is key.
Regular Denture Cleaning
Bacteria in the mouth will stick to dentures in the same way they stick to teeth. Dentures also require dental care, ensuring daily cleaning with the correct cleaning agents. The conventional toothpastes and gels aren’t recommended – they could be too abrasive for dentures.
Most every dentist will recommend removing dentures for at least 4 hours out of 24. It’s also recommended to remove dentures during the night. For most, the dentist can provide specific instructions on wearing dentures, and proper maintenance for the appliance.
Consistent Dentist Visits
Again, regardless of patient age, regular dental checkups are key to proper dental care. Many dentists will suggest every six months, but at least once yearly. Waiting for pain to develop is counter-productive – by the time there’s pain, things may have already deteriorated.
Consistent dentist visits are also considered preventive. And while routine dental care is part of the big picture, the dentist can probe for more serious issues like gum disease, and even oral cancer. In every scenario, early detection and prompt treatment are the preference.
The Elder Environment
Elders should regularly provide an updated profile to their dentist: prescription medicines; over-the-counter medications; medical conditions and/or allergies; contacts for other doctors; even emergency contact details. This is particularly important as age progresses.
Older patients will likely have some dental care insurance, and conferring with the dentist can ensure that all of the benefits are fully used. This would be especially relevant to those who are on fixed incomes or limited budgets. It should never compromise dental care.