Though we have all heard the saying that the eyes are the window to the soul, similarly, it can be said that the mouth is the window to your health. Though it may seem insignificant, dental hygiene is one of the most important aspects of good health for everyone. But this is especially true for seniors.
As we get older, our immune systems are generally less able to combat germs that cause different health issues and common oral health issues become more pronounced. In addition to this factor, older adults may use denture. When dentures are used, food and other particles are more likely to get lodged in and stuck against the gums, which can lead to issues like gingivitis.
Oral health problems don’t just affect the mouth itself; the mouth is a gateway to the rest of the body, after all. Poor dental hygiene can lead to more serious medical problems, like heart disease and diabetes. Further, nearly a quarter of all seniors have severe gum disease, and related complications lead to hundreds of thousands of emergency room visits a year. Surprisingly, about a third of all of these issues are caused by dry mouth, which can easily be remedied with over-the-counter medications.
As we age, our teeth naturally decay. However, there are certain signs to be on the lookout for, which can denote bad health. First of all, darkened teeth can signify serious issues. Sometimes, they are just a result of a lifetime of drinking coffee and wine, or from smoking. However, it can also be a sign of thinning enamel, the outer layer of the teeth, which allows the dark dentin to show through.
If your loved one has had toothaches or even teeth falling out, it could be a sign of a couple different issues: gum disease and/or root decay. Gum disease is one of the most prevalent dental problems for seniors. It can be caused by anything from using tobacco, to food lodged in the teeth, to shoddy dental structures, to a poor diet, and even from health issues like diabetes. It is also the leading cause of tooth loss. Similarly, root decay is often caused by overexposure to acid, such as reflux or from certain foods and drinks. The root loses its enamel as the gum recedes, causing it to rot.
A build-up of Candida albicans can also be an issue. Candida albicans is a yeast that grows in our digestive tracts and other areas with no side effects. However, it can lead to an infection in the mouth. Often, it develops underneath dentures, causing inflammation. An over-growth of Candida albicans can also be caused by certain medications; in these cases, the infection is called “thrush.”
TAKING CARE OF SENIOR DENTAL HYGIENE
Maintaining good oral health in seniors requires much the same care as any other age. It’s important to brush at least twice a day with toothpaste that contains fluoride, which helps teeth stay strong. In addition, flossing at least once a day is vital, as seniors may not realize they have food stuck in their teeth; a water pick may be especially useful. Finally, be sure to use an antiseptic mouthwash, which kills the bacteria that cause plaque and gum disease. Also, don’t skip out on the dentist! Following through on your scheduled dentist appointments are important. You should see your dentist at least twice a year. They will check for various signs of poor oral health that you may miss.
If it seems as if your loved one is unable to care for their teeth as well as other personal care needs as they once did, it might be time to consider an assisted living community.
Dogwood Forest of Grayson is here to help. Contact us today at 678-496-2319 to learn more about how we can help you and your loved one and visit www.dogwoodforest.com/grayson for more information.