As with so many other health care issues, dental care becomes even more important as individuals age. While age alone is not necessarily responsible for most dental issues, seniors often have difficulty brushing their teeth due to arthritis and there are several medications that cause oral side effects. However, caregivers providing elder care can help improve daily dental practices and identify possible problems before they worsen.
Some possible oral care problems to be aware of include the following:
There are many reasons that seniors might experience dry mouth, including cancer treatments, side effects of medicines and other diseases.
While everyone has plaque in his or her mouth, plaque requires regular cleaning and removal on a regular basis to prevent the progression of gum disease. In addition, tobacco products and poor oral hygiene such as missed teeth cleanings and food left in the mouth can contribute to the problem. Failure to address gum disease can lead to gingivitis. Gum disease may also lead to tooth loss, which in turn leads to an uneven jawbone and problems eating.
Over time, the dentin in the teeth changes and darkens, exacerbated by items that stain, such as wine, tobacco and cola.
Loss of sense of taste
Many medications and diseases lessen the ability to taste, as does normal age progression.
Thrush is a yeast-based rash that occurs in the mouth, often caused by certain drugs and diseases.
Stomatitis is an inflammation of the tissue underneath a denture, usually caused by an ill-fitting denture and worsened by poor dental hygiene.
Oral Care Tips
Dental care is a very important part of elder care, especially since many seniors will not inform others if they are experiencing pain or unusual sensations in their mouth. Here are some basic daily tasks to help improve oral care:
· Brush twice daily with a fluoride toothpaste.
· Floss once a day.
· Use an antibacterial mouth wash twice a day.
· Visit the dentist once every six months for a thorough exam and cleaning
Caregivers should look inside the senior’s mouth a few times a week to check for sores, changes, loose teeth or rash and notify the dentist immediately if problems are evident.
In addition, ask the senior to notify you if they experience dry mouth or a change in taste or sensitivity in the mouth, as this may indicate oral problems easily addressed by a dental professional.
Preventative and regular oral care for seniors can help prevent future problems and increase their overall well-being.
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