Common senior dental health issues
One of the first things people think about when they think of seniors are dentures. That said, the better you take care of your teeth, the longer they will stay healthy, and the later you will need artificial ones to help you speak and eat. In many senior patients, dental problems are not a separate issue. Instead, they are closely tied to the patient’s general health.
Studies have shown that many diseases experienced by elderly patients can show symptoms in their teeth and mouths. Other oral diseases, such as periodontitis, can increase a patient’s risk of heart disease. This can be life-threatening, because older patients already have weakened immunity systems, organs, and muscles.
Another challenge is that infections in a patient’s teeth can escalate into blood infections and heart conditions like endocarditis. Teeth can also show signs of unhealthy food choices, anaemia, mineral deficiencies, diabetes, arthritis, and liver ailments. If a patient has diabetes, their wounds heal more slowly, including wounds in their teeth and gums.
All these reasons make it even more important to keep a close eye on the dental health of your parents and grandparents. Older patients may have a hard time maintaining good oral health standards. If they have arthritis, brushing their teeth may hurt, and they may find it difficult to hold a length of floss.
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Remind your loved ones to brush their teeth after every meal, and help them if they need it. If they get tired quickly, suggest they sit while brushing, rather than standing at the sink. You can also take them to the dentist for regular tooth cleaning to detect infections and reduce the build-up of plaque and tartar.
If your loved one is already using dentures, you need to frequently inspect them. If they have any breakage or gaps, the patient might not chew properly, and bits of food might slip into their lungs. This can cause pneumonia. Also, if the dentures don’t fit properly, it not only embarrasses the patient, it may also cause pain when they eat.
Regular dental visits will allow the dentist to adjust the fit of the dentures as the patient’s jaw shrinks, causing tissues to retract. When the dentures start to hurt, a dentist can pad the gums with a softer substance that protects them and reduces pain as the dentures dig in.
Plan B might be to install implants rather than standard dentures. The implants sit on the jaw bone, and a snap mechanism is then used to attach tailored dentures onto the implant. This prevents direct and potentially painful access to the flesh. It acts as a buffer between the dentures and the gums.
Many seniors have a health regime that includes multiple daily medicines. These medications can sometimes dry out their mouths, and this dryness can cause their gums to recede excessively. In turn, this recession can cause root exposure and cavities. To ease their dry mouths, seniors should avoid salty food, and regularly use lip balms.
They can routinely chew sugarless gum and candies that are hard and tart, to enhance saliva production, which keeps the mouth moist. There are several saliva substitutes that patients can consume to make up for the deficit as well.