Added on November 10, 2017 by Lucy_Wyndham
The good news for our elderly loved ones is that seniors aged over 65 still have an average of about 18.90 remaining teeth. Only 24% have no remaining teeth at all, meaning that keeping teeth and gums healthy is a vital part of disease prevention. In this post, we discuss the biggest dental risks for mature persons, suggesting measures that carers and loved ones can take to keep seniors healthy and happy.
Dry mouth is not a normal part of aging, but it is a common side-effect of many medications, including those for high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and depression. Since those over 65 may be on these medications, it is vital to take protective measures, such as keeping hydrated by drinking water throughout the day, avoiding foods that can irritate the mouth (such as caffeine, soda and alcohol) and using mouthwashes or sprays to maintain moisture.
Gum disease is another risk for the elderly; caused by the buildup of plaque where the teeth meet gums, it results in inflammation and, in serious cases, the formation of pockets between the teeth and gum - which can lead to the loss of teeth and bone. Gum recession also increases the risk of root caries, which affect around 50% of those aged over 75. To keep gums healthy, seniors should brush twice daily, floss after bruising, and use topical fluoride in mouth rinses and toothpaste, and pay attention to their diet, consuming less refined sugars and processed foods and mainly consuming a Mediterranean-style diet, with its focus on healthy proteins and a wide variety of fruits and vegetables.
It is important for the elderly to visit their dentist regularly, since oral cancer is more prevalent in the older population, than in the young. Symptoms to watch out for include white or red patches in the mouth, numbness, pain in one ear without hearing loss, sores/lumps in the mouth, lips or throat, or a feeling like they have something in their throat. It is important to get these symptoms checked out early, to increase the chances of successful treatment. The elderly can sometimes be reticent to visit the dentist, either out of a sense of fear, or because treatment can be costly. Assure your elderly loved one that private insurance and Medicaid can help reduce or nullify costs. In 30 states, Medicaid covers dental work for specific categories, such as medically necessary dental work, so make sure to inform your loved one of what their coverage includes. Seniors should also be encouraged to maintain a sound dental cleaning routine, since poor oral health has been found to be a risk factor for oropharyngeal cancers.
Seniors are at a greater risk of a number of dental issues, including cavities, dry mouth, gum disease, and oral cancer. Patiently help them establish an oral hygiene routine, give them the tools they need (including electric toothbrushes, mouthwash and floss) and ensure they visit their dentist regularly, so that any signs of oral cancer are spotted as early as possible.