Community Blog

Oral Health and Seniors

By Erin Carll

Caregivers in Pittsburgh PA

About 25 percent of adults 60 years old and older no longer have any natural teeth, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. But for the 75 percent of seniors who do still have some or all of their natural teeth, oral health and hygiene is especially important. The Centers go on to say that gum disease and tooth decay are the most frequent causes of tooth loss. In addition, old Americans continue to experience decay on the crowns of teeth and on tooth roots, mostly because of gum recession. In fact, the Centers claim that it’s possible for older adults to experience new tooth decay at higher rates than children.

With this kind of information, oral and dental hygiene are increasingly important for seniors, but not always easy to achieve. Some medical conditions, such as arthritis in the hands and fingers, can make brushing or flossing difficult, even impossible to do. Some drugs seniors are on can also affect their oral health, and may even make a change in their dental treatment necessary.

But there are things that can be done to help provide good oral hygiene, no matter their ability. As a family caregiver, it’s important that you help to reinforce these tips, or assist your loved one with them.

  • Daily brushing of natural teeth is important. It’s recommended to brush after every meal or snack, but at a minimum they should brush twice daily. The recommended amount of time to brush teeth is approximately two minutes. If holding a manual toothbrush is difficult for your elderly loved one, as their family caregiver, consider purchasing them an electric toothbrush. Toothpaste and drinking water should contain fluoride for the best results.
  • Flossing at least once per day is also important. Again, if holding the floss in their hands is difficult, there are products on the market that have floss automatically in them that are easier to hold to get the job done.
  • They should rinse with an antiseptic mouthwash once or twice per day. The American Dental Association says that an antibacterial mouth rinse can reduce the mouth bacteria that causes plaque and gum disease.
  • And of course, having an annual dental exam and teeth cleaning is crucial. Problems and expensive, sometimes painful procedures, can often be lessened, or avoided altogether, if caught in time. The only way to do that is to be seen regularly by a dentist and hygienist.
  • Seeing a dentist regularly is also important for seniors who no longer have any of their natural teeth as they can detect any gum or tongue diseases that may be developing.

Source: http://www.cdc.gov/OralHealth/publications/factsheets/adult_oral_health/adult_older.htm

If you or an aging loved one are considering hiring in-home caregivers in Pittsburgh, PA, please call the caring staff at Home Helpers. Call today (412) 201-0712.