It is estimated that the aging population is at higher risk of a number of dental issues than other demographic groups. While practicing good dental and oral hygiene is an everyday must-do for everyone, it is easy for older adults to neglect or get too comfortable with not brushing or flossing their teeth as regularly as recommended due to health concerns and disabilities or being homebound.
Learn about 9 reasons why dental care for the elderly is important and some dental care tips to achieve healthy and strong teeth.
Top 9 Reasons Why Seniors Should Prioritize Dental and Oral Care
The Importance of Dental Care for the Elderly?
Most people associate poor dental and oral hygiene with stinky breath, tooth decay, and stains. However, the consequences of not paying attention to your overall dental health can go much deeper than that.
Delta Dental surveys that approximately 31% of American adults don’t practice brushing their teeth twice a day. The major reason people don’t scrutinize their dental health is they believe dental health maintenance is less important than other aspects of health, most likely because dental issues are progressive and take longer to hurt or cause discomfort to their host. Other reasons people underestimate dental care include rising dental care costs, fear, anxiety when visiting dentists, embarrassment about their teeth, busy schedules, and so on.
With a well-maintained dental and oral dental care routine, seniors can all avoid common dental problems like toothaches, tooth loss, bad breath, and gum disease. Below are reasons why seniors should put dental care at the top of their priority list.
Although it is common for seniors to say goodbye to one or more of their teeth as they age, tooth loss can pose more threats than anticipated. Missing teeth can result in jaw displacement, giving rise to problems with chewing and swallowing food like fruits and vegetables.
Over time, the lack of nutrient intake and limited food selection can lead to malnutrition and nutrient deficiencies in seniors. A strong set of teeth help seniors better meet their nutritional needs and ward off potential health by allowing them to chew and swallow without problems.
Disordered or impaired speech is another issue related to missing teeth that not many people are aware of.
Although this issue may not appear to be a problem initially, speech impairment can aggravate over time and limit seniors’ ability to communicate clearly. While implants and dentures can fix the problem, wearing them for long periods can be uncomfortable, eventually causing problems in pronouncing and forming certain words. Seniors may develop weird speaking patterns as well.
By maintaining naturally strong teeth for as long as possible, older adults can have more freedom to eat whatever they want and maintain a smooth line of communication with others.
Stubborn tartar and sticky plaque are the primary culprit behind chronic bad breath, no matter how often you brush your teeth.
When you neglect your dental care, the accumulation of plaque over time in the cavity can harden into tartar. Tartar can’t be removed by simply brushing your teeth and hoping for the best since only dentists can remove them altogether.
Normally, when layers of tartar and plaque are unattended, they become a perfect breeding place for bacteria, leading to stinky breath and yellow-stained teeth.
Why should seniors watch out for dry mouth? Dry mouth, or xerostomia, is a prevalent dental condition among the aging population, with one out of every four American older adults experiencing salivary hypofunction. While dry mouth can aggressively affect a senior’s taste buds, making it more challenging to chew and taste food, insufficient saliva can worsen current oral and dental conditions, such as tooth decay, infections, and fungal growth.
Did you know that a beautiful pair of teeth can significantly contribute to seniors’ confidence and maximize their level of contentment in life? Due to the social stigma surrounding tooth loss and stinky breath, seniors neglecting their dental care might struggle with putting themselves out there and mingling with others. That’s why seniors are encouraged to take good care of their dental health, as healthy and shiny teeth can level up their confidence and improve their mental health and overall quality of life.
Another dental issue faced by most seniors with poor dental care is gingivitis. A periodontal disease, or gingivitis, is a mild dental condition brought on by the invasion of oral bacteria. It makes the gums puffy and susceptible to bleeding when brushing your teeth.
Severe gum disease, characterized by tender and receding gums, can lead to faster tooth loss if left untreated. Not only that, a higher risk of tooth loss can cost seniors a small fortune in implants or dentures. The condition also causes serious damage to the jawbones and ligaments, not just the gums.
Although anti-bacterial mouthwashes can help to soothe bleeding gums, too much bacteria and blood clots produced by untreated gingivitis can cross into the bloodstream and spread to the heart. While oral bacteria can inflame arteries, blood clots can block blood flow to vital organs while overexerting the heart. Over time, seniors are at heightened risk of developing stroke, heart attack, and cardiovascular disease.
Several studies have found a connection between poor dental care and troublesome respiratory infections. Untreated dental problems, severe gum disease, and tooth decay can facilitate bacteria to breed and overgrow. How we breathe is the major pathway for bacteria to spread into the body. When inhaling harmful microorganisms through the mouth, oral bacteria can give rise to breathing disorders and exacerbate seniors’ respiratory problems.
It is reported that oral cancer is more deadly than prostate, breast, and cervical cancer. Although people don’t talk much about oral cancer, the fatal condition is relatively prevalent, with 35,000 new cases of oral cancer reported annually in the United States alone. However, visiting a dentist at least twice a year can help your seniors detect the slightest concerning changes in their dental health before it is too late.
Dental Care for the Elderly: How to Keep Shiny, Strong Teeth
Unlike other wellness maintenance, keeping shiny, strong teeth is a lifetime achievement. It doesn’t suddenly stop when you get older. Maintaining good dental care practices is vital throughout life, from using the right products to visiting dentists as advised and paying close attention to everyday habits. Here are some best practices for healthy, shiny, and strong teeth.
- Brush your teeth twice a day — Brush your teeth at least twice a day is a tale as old as time. Kickstart every morning with a fresh brushing, and don’t go to bed without brushing your teeth. This simple habit ensures all the plaque buildup and germs collected throughout the day or night are washed away.
- Have dental checkups twice a year — Aside from flossing and brushing, visiting dentists twice a year also plays a crucial role in seniors’ dental health. A dentist can spot minor issues, check for cavities, and recommend the best treatment plan to alleviate pain or discomfort caused by dentures.
- Don’t forget your tongue — Did you know the tongue is the perfect place for bacteria and plaque to grow? After brushing your teeth, gently brush your tongue with your toothbrush or use a tongue scraper to scrape off the buildup of plaque and bacteria.
- Practice proper brushing — Taking time to brush your teeth is an important part of dental and oral hygiene. Use a soft-bristled brush and gently move the brush in circular motions. Check here for how to brush your teeth properly.
- Consider floss and mouthwash — While flossing can get the littlest pieces of food between teeth, consider a mouthwash as it helps reach difficult-to-reach areas, remineralize teeth, and reduce the acid content in the mouth.
- Drink more water — Besides aiding digestion, drinking water after meals helps to wash away small particles of foods and acidic and sugary residue that soon become favorite foods for bacteria that cause cavities.
- Cut down on sugary and acidic foods and beverages — Acidic and sugary foods can wear down teeth enamel. Without brushing your teeth properly, it can lead to tooth decay.
If you have questions about dental care for the elderly or any topics discussed here, connect with us and learn more.
At 12 Oaks, our team of caring professionals is dedicated to keeping residents safe, engaged, and connected to their families and friends while leading fulfilling lives. 12 Oaks senior living communities are an ideal place to enjoy the encore season of life.
For questions or to schedule a personalized tour, don’t hesitate to contact us.
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