Dental Care for Seniors
Geriatric dentistry focuses on the oral health of older adults. Oral health in older adults is especially important as older adults may experience many difficulties regarding their dental health. In May 2000, the Surgeon General’s report on oral health claimed that the elderly were among other groups that endured the worst oral health.
Experiencing specific mental or physical conditions may result in the inability of difficulty to maintain a healthy dental cavity.
Dental Diseases and Seniors
If older adults fail to practice good oral routines, they may experience dental diseases such as gum disease. How do you know if you have signs of dental disease? While it’s important to report pain or discomfort to your dentist, there are other symptoms that may suggest the presence of a dental disease.
1) Constant bad breath
2) Bloody gums
3) Discolored teeth
4) Loss of appetite
5) Dull-looking teeth
6) Swelling in your mouth
7) Tooth decay
8) Dentures that don’t fit properly
Dry Mouths in Seniors
Older adults are susceptible to having a dry mouth—an appropriate environment for bacterial growth. This encourages more problems with your teeth and gums which then leads to more serious problems such as periodontal disease.
If you think you have a dry mouth, consider these signs and symptoms:
1) Little saliva
2) Rough tongue
3) Cracked lips
4) Bad breath
5) Loose dentures
6) More plaque
7) Problems chewing, swallowing or even talking
To help combat a dry mouth, avoid caffeine and tobacco. Make sure you drink plenty of water and avoid refined sugar.
Diet and Oral Health for Seniors
Older adults must incorporate a healthy, balanced diet in order to maintain good oral health. Consumed foods should be rich with calcium and other essential nutrients. To ensure a proper diet full of essential nutrients, consider the following:
1) Lean proteins such as chicken breast and fish.
2) Whole grains.
3) Choose low-fat or fat-free dairy products such as yogurt, cheese and milk for calcium-rich nutrients.
4) Eat fresh fruit.
5) Choose fresh veggies. Focus on dark, leafy greens. Vary the colors with your veggies as they contain antioxidants.
6) Avoid refined sugars.
Many older adults simply do not eat regularly enough which also affects your oral health. Why do some older adults fail to eat regularly? Consider the following:
4) Loose dentures
5) Tooth pain
7) Inability to cook or do the grocery shopping
Consult your doctor or dentist if you think you’re not eating enough or not getting the proper nutrients. Look into a home-delivery meal program if you’re unable to do your own grocery shopping or if you’re on a tighter budget.
Problems with dentures affect the oral health of an elderly adult. At first, wearing your dentures may seem awkward and frustrating. New dentures may cause you to experience:
1) More saliva
2) A bulky feeling in your mouth
3) Changes in your speech—particularly making “F” or “S” sounds
4) Tender areas in your mouth
While common, these problems are quite short-lived as you become accustomed to your new dentures.
Dentures require maintenance. If you care for them properly, they should last between five and ten years. To keep your dentures in good shape, make sure you have a clean mouth:
1) Rinse your dentures in water to remove food debris
2) Clean your dentures by brushing them everyday
3) Remove your dentures for a few hours daily in order to rest your mouth
4) Avoid using hot water when cleaning your dentures
5) Call your dentist if your dentures break
To insert your dentures, make sure they are clean and patted dry first. You may need to use an adhesive. Rinse your mouth and then press the denture in place. Hold it in place and bite.
To remove your dentures, place your thumbs at the top of the denture. Push down until you loosen the denture. For your lower dentures, put your fingers on either side of the denture. Make a gentle rocking motion from side to side until the denture loosens.
Oral Hygiene Checklist
1) Brush at least twice day with fluoride toothpaste.
2) Brush your tongue.
3) If your toothpaste causes discomfort, switch to a sensitive one or just use water.
4) Floss daily by using about 20 inches of floss. Wrap it around the middle finger of each hand. Floss the lower front teeth and then the upper front teeth, working the floss between the teeth to the gum line. Perform an up and down motion.