Oral Care for The Elderly
The mouth is an entry point for much bacteria. So regular and correct hygiene habits are essential to health. With age and disease, there may be a decrease in manual dexterity making it more difficult to practice these habits. Older adults may need to use electric toothbrushes and other special brushes to clean between teeth. People with arthritis or other limitations to movement may need modified toothbrushes with thicker handles. Smile Makers will show the correct methods of cleaning the teeth, suitable for the individual
Dryness of the mouth
With age, our salivary glands may naturally produce less saliva leading to dryness of the mouth. More often, the cause may be the medicines we take (for example for high blood pressure or depression). Dryness of the mouth can cause discomfort with dentures, bad breath and tooth decay.
Older adults may see an increase in tooth decay due to reduced saliva. Saliva helps to wash away the acids produced by bacteria in plaque - acids that attack the tooth structure and cause decay.
Adults may also be prone to decay because of exposed root surfaces or worn-out chewing surfaces where the protective layer of hard enamel has been lost. Decay on these surfaces can spread rapidly.
At Smile Makers, we can carry out saliva tests to check on the quality of saliva and recommend ways to increase protection against tooth decay. Examples of such protection include regular fluoride applications, use of calcium creams at home and the use of fluoride containing filling materials rather than amalgams.
Uncontrolled gum disease has been associated with increased risk of heart disease and strokes. People with diabetes are more prone to infections and need to be especially aware of the possibility of having gum disease. Gum disease is a "silent" disease that often goes unrecognised until advanced symptoms like looseness of the teeth occur. Older adults with poor oral hygiene may suffer from gum disease without being aware of it. Regular checkups are necessary to make sure that gum disease is kept away with good hygiene habits.
Dentures need to be changed every 3 to 5 years. This is because the gums and teeth that support dentures will change shape and position over time. Then the dentures will no longer fit well. Continuing to use worn-out dentures that do not fit well can cause a range of problems like ulcers or sores on the gums and looseness of remaining teeth. Furthermore, chewing will not be so efficient. Even the appearance of the person can be affected. (Please refer to “My dentures make me look old”)
At Smile Makers, we schedule regular checkups for older patients to make sure that their dentures are in good condition and that they are cleaning their dentures, as well as their natural teeth, well.
Attitude to Dental Care
Older adults may not have had the benefit of regular care during their youth so their dental health would be compromised. In addition, they may be distracted with other issues and think that dental care is "unnecessary".
Now with increasing evidence of the connection between the health of our mouths and our general health (the mouth-body connection), the necessity for clean, healthy mouths become clear.
Our mouths affect our physical health and our psychological well-being - at any age. Good oral habits like brushing and flossing need to be maintained all through life