Dental Tips | 07 April, 2020

How to take care of your oral health as you get older

Taking care of your oral health is important at all ages, especially if you want to keep your teeth your whole life.

Oral health plays an important role in your overall health. It can be difficult to maintain good oral health as you get older though. Side effects of ageing, such as cognitive impairment and limited functionality, can affect our ability to look after our oral health.

Oral disease is a growing problem for the elderly and it can impact on their general health and daily activities in the following ways:

General Health

  • Poor oral health can complicate the management of other health issues an individual is facing.
  • Dental issues can affect the ability to speak and chew. This can then lead to a lack of nutrition and decrease in body weight due to loss of appetite and discomfort when chewing.

Daily Activities

  • Pain or discomfort in the mouth can lead to mood and behaviour problems. This is of great concern for people with cognitive impairment (dementia, Alzheimer’s, etc.)
  • Socialisation can also be impacted by bad breath, speech difficulties, and concerns about their appearance (self-esteem).
  • Poor oral health can also impact sleep patterns.

So, how do we manage this?

What can we do to help manage our health when we get older or manage the oral health of an elderly person you may be caring for? Eating well, drinking well, and keeping a good oral health routine are the basic steps needed to maintain oral health for older people

Eating Well

Nutrition is important for everyone and having a balanced diet improves your overall health as well as your oral health. For older people, it is recommended that sticky and sugary food intake is reduced.

Sugar increases the chances of tooth decay, so by reducing the frequency that we consume foods containing sugar we can reduce this risk. Eating meals and snacks that contain dairy is also a great way to decrease the acid build up in the mouth and reduce the risk of tooth decay. Care should also be taken with harder foods (such as nuts) to avoid any damage to dentures

Drinking Well

The elderly can be susceptible to dry mouth because of certain medications and reduced saliva production. Saliva works to neutralise acids and helps prevent the progression of dental decay.

Dry mouth syndrome can impact the ability to speak, taste, chew, and swallow as well as leading to a higher rate of decay. Frequently sipping water is a great way to keep the mouth wet and reduce the effects of dry mouth.

Drinking water after meals and snacks is also a great way to reduce any acid and bacteria build up in the mouth. Drinking water after medications will also reduce the incidence of dry mouth symptoms.

If dry mouth symptoms persist or intensify you should get in touch with your doctor or dentist.

Oral Health Care

Whether you have natural teeth, dentures, or no teeth it’s still important to maintain your oral health routine throughout the later years of life.

Using a soft toothbrush, you should brush at least twice a day. Brushing twice daily removes plaque build-up and bacteria from the mouth, reducing infection, decay, and the chances of oral disease. If you have no teeth, it’s still important to brush the gums and tongue to remove bacteria and reduce the chances of oral health disease.

Brushing your dentures will prevent the build-up of bacteria and fungi. Be careful when cleaning your dentures as scratches and chips can cause irritation and increase the chance of oral infection.

As we get older it’s also important to perform regular mouth checks to search for any indicators of oral disease. You, or someone close to you, should perform a check for the following indicators:

  • Lips: Dryness, cracks, lumps, or swelling
  • Tongue: Patchiness, white coating, redness or swelling
  • Gums: ulcers, sores, swelling, bleeding
  • Teeth: cracks; decay (black or brown colouring); broken fillings etc, exposed roots, sensitivity
  • Dentures: Cracks, breaks, cleanliness, worn down areas, bent or broken wires
  • Mouth: Bad Breath, dry mouth, pain, difficulty eating, speaking, swallowing
  • Saliva: thick, stringy, sticky, frothy, bubbly

If any irregularities are found in the mouth, it's a good idea to consult with your dentist about the possible causes.

Source: Maven Dental