The population of our aging loved ones is on the rise. By the year 2050, almost one in five individuals would be above the age of 65 years. The rapid decrease in the rate of communicable disease attributes to the steady rise in the longevity of aging our loved ones. Though the incidence of communicable diseases has decreased to a greater extent. Our aging loved ones are still the most vulnerable when we talk about chronic degenerative diseases. This is by far, one of the leading causes of mortality in this population. Furthermore, our aging loved ones are also at a greater risk of suffering from oral diseases, due to a lack of proper oral hygiene practices. Oral diseases such as periodontal disease, oral cancer, and xerostomia have become a common problem among the aging population.
Why is oral health important for our aging loved ones?
The Washington Dental Service Foundation, states that only 75 percent of the adults aged 60 years and above will have only a small portion of their original teeth. Knowing this fact, it becomes important for us to understand the necessity of maintaining oral health as our parent’s age. Educating them and helping them with their oral health, can go a long way in maintaining good oral hygiene.
The Washington Dental Service Foundation has also stated that about 23 percent of elderlies, aged 65 – 74 years, also suffer from gum disease. This is an important reason for contributing to the loss of their natural teeth. Furthermore, chronic diseases like heart disease and also diabetes, largely contribute to the problem of oral health.
Poor oral health develops when our loved ones are not able to independently take care of their teeth and mouth hygiene. Many conditions such as frailty, diseases, cognitive impairment, and polypharmacy, make it difficult for our loved ones to take proper care of their oral health.
Poor oral health has a significant impact on other health issues of the body.
Functional problems involving the tongue and swallowing mechanisms can also affect the elderly’s ability to take care of their oral hygiene.
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The importance of oral health in older adults
Poor oral health has a serious impact on the rest of the body. Therefore, it becomes extremely necessary to practice good oral hygiene. What we need to make our aging parents understand is that poor oral hygiene has a direct or an indirect association with several diseases.
Here are some of the reasons, which can help your loved ones understand the importance of oral health:
Maintaining good oral hygiene can go a long way in preventing deadly infections. Gum infections can give way for the onset of other infections such as pneumonia, heart disease, gum decay, and root decay. Whereas gum infections can be annoying for our loved ones, but heart disease and pneumonia are life-threatening conditions.
Increased risk of other diseases
If older adults do not care for their oral hygiene enough, then they could be at an increased risk of developing diabetes. Poor oral hygiene can contribute to an increase in their blood sugar levels, making them strong candidates for diabetes.
Edentulousness or tooth loss in the aging population is an independent risk factor for weight loss. Most of our loved ones with tooth loss, often try to avoid foods rich in dietary fiber and prefer foods that are easy to chew for their oral health. Adoption of such unhealthy dietary practices can prove to be fatal to our loved ones, which can gradually give way for malnutrition or other oral health problems.
Tips for maintaining good oral hygiene
We need to always remember, that a healthy mouth, would allow us to eat healthily and remain healthy!! Here are some of the tips that would help your loved ones to maintain good oral health.
Encourage your loved ones to brush their teeth twice every day with a fluoride toothpaste. Also, ask them to floss their teeth every day.
Don’t allow them to chew tobacco or candies containing a high amount of sugar.
A visit to a dentist every year is mandatory to keep oral health under check.
You can also ask your loved ones to rinse their mouth daily with mouth wash. If they are suffering from gum disease, then a mouthwash that contains chlorhexidine would be extremely beneficial.
If your loved one has undergone valve replacement or have prosthetic joints, then they need to be extra cautious about their oral health to prevent infections and other accompanying complications.
Caring for dentures
As already explained, only a small population of the aging population can retain their natural teeth. Therefore, dentures are commonly used by the majority of the aging population. However, if the dentures are not cleaned properly, then they can lead to fungal infections. Here are some simple tips for taking care of dentures:
As far as possible, avoid wearing dentures at night. This is because the gum tissues need some time off. It is best to clean the dentures and place them in a glass bowl filled with clean cold water.
The dentures should be thoroughly cleaned with a denture brush using a mild soap and under running water.
While wearing dentures, it is best to avoid the use of fluoride toothpaste.
Never allow your loved one to use damaged dentures. Dentures that have damage are a strong source of infections and replaced immediately.
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Changes in teeth as we age
As our loved one’s age, we should be expecting certain changes in their teeth. Below are some of the conditions, which are likely to develop as one age. Let us understand the various conditions, which we need to look for in our aging loved ones.
Dry mouth: Though this is not a common accompaniment of old age, but can often occur if your loved ones are on medications for chronic illness.
Sensitive teeth: This is a common problem of aging and you can expect your loved ones to experience this more often. Problem while eating hot or cold foods, becomes pretty common, when the gums recede naturally exposing those areas of the tooth which are no longer protected.
Gum disease: Prevent gum disease by practicing good oral hygiene. The formation of plaque on the teeth can give rise to gum disease, which can also result in tooth loss if proper action is not initiated on time.
Oral cancer and Seniors
The risk of oral cancer increases as one ages. Therefore, one needs to be vigilant about any unusual changes or sudden development of symptoms. Here is an extensive list of signs and symptoms, that you need to look out for in your aging loved ones. Alternatively, you can even educate your loved ones regarding the same, so that even they can differentiate amongst the normal and unusual signs.
Difficulty while chewing food or swallowing liquids
Development of a white or red-colored patch inside the mouth
A sore in the mouth that doesn’t heal
A spot or a lump on the lip, mouth or throat
Inflammation in the jaw
Tongue or the mouth becomes difficult to move or has become numb
Pain in one of the ears, but with no hearing loss
If the above-mentioned symptoms persist for more than 2 weeks, then you need to consult your dentist immediately. It can be difficult to attend to your loved one with oral health problems, but it’s not impossible. With the right knowledge, you can do this. Don’t forget about taking care of yourself and keeping your business going while you are caregiving. I’m here to assist you on this journey, schedule your planning session with me so we can look at how to keep your life and your business running smoothly. Also, come check this post out about aging better in life.
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