Mar 28, 2018

6 Most Common Dental Issues Among Seniors and How Carers Can Help

Aging presents many dental health complications. It’s not only because of the fact that as people get older, they start observing the effects of the lifestyle they led when they were younger; the body really does slow down over time.

In fact, the body’s natural ability to produce certain hormones as well as regenerate cells diminishes at the age of 30. This is why it is crucial to uphold a healthier lifestyle and to invest in preventative dentistry services when you reach the golden years.

Elderly Dental Issues

Some examples of common health woes that seniors experience are dental issues such as:

1. Candidiasis

This is basically a yeast infection in the mouth due to a weakened immune system, diseases like diabetes and cancer, or wearing dentures. Signs and symptoms include white or yellow patches around the mouth, redness and soreness in the mouth and throat, pain when swallowing, and cracks at the sides of the mouth.

2. Dental caries

These are the brownish discolourations on teeth that hurt upon contact with hot or cold food or hard objects.

3. Dry mouth

Also known as xerostomia, a patient with this condition literally has a dry mouth due to the decreased production of saliva or being unhealthy and under medication. A dry mouth results in halitosis and other dental issues.

4. Gingivitis

Gums are prone to bleeding and swelling. The condition does not hurt much, but it can evolve into periodontitis if not treated properly.

5.  Periodontitis

Periodontitis is a severe form of gum disease. This is the inflammation of the tissues around the teeth. It creates pockets between the teeth and gums, increasing the likelihood of tooth loss. This is a serious dental issue because it has been linked to diabetes, certain types of cancer, and cardiovascular diseases.

6.  Oral cancer

Studies reveal that for 48,250 individuals newly diagnosed with oral cancer, “just a little more than half of them will be alive in five years.” There are various reasons behind this disease, but one thing that’s certain about it is that older people are most prone to it.

What Can Be Done

Needless to say,  these dental issues are serious health problems and should not be taken lightly. Not only can they create great physical discomfort, but more serious cases can lead to untimely death as well.

If you are tasked to take care of an elderly loved one or a patient, it is important to be truly proactive in helping them uphold the right oral health routine. Here are some ways to do that.

●      Improve their diet and make eating easy.

Healthy food and supplements can do wonders in boosting the immune system and protecting teeth from decay and infection. Encourage seniors to eat more fruits and vegetables for their vitamins and minerals. This will create a whole world of difference when it comes to their oral health.

And if they are having trouble chewing, as a carer, you can mash their food for them or cut everything into smaller pieces.

●      Serve water more often.

Most older people prefer their tea and coffee, but it is healthier for them to consume more water than any other drink.

Water maintains the right pH level of the mouth and keeps it properly hydrated. It also passes through the body much faster, getting rid of toxins more effectively.

●      Make sure they don’t miss their dental appointments.

Oral prophylaxis, fluoride rinses and other preventative dental services and treatments can get rid of painful dental caries and prevent further deterioration of the teeth.

Meanwhile, restorative dentistry is also worth considering especially if the elderly individual wishes to restore function and comfort. It’s never too late for a dental implant, especially in salvaging the gums and jawbone, which are compromised by wearing dentures.

Staying on top of dental appointments is a must to help your patient avoid unnecessary physical discomforts and additional expenses.

●      Insist on regular oral cancer screening.

A thorough inspection doesn’t take long, yet it can identify indicators of oral cancer right away. The problem with oral cancer is that it is usually identified too late.

But if you help elderly loved ones commit to regular oral cancer screening, and it is eventually determined that they are in the early stage of the disease, then proper treatment (along with lifestyle changes) can yield positive results.

●      Make the switch to senior-friendly dental products.

A softer toothbrush, specially formulated toothpaste and an electric flossing tool instead of the traditional string floss – these provisions can make oral care easier and gentler, but just as effective.

Awareness about the common dental issues that elderly individuals experience allows for proper actions to be taken. And with timely changes, resolving these oral health woes is easy, helping create a better quality of life for seniors.

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