As people age and have to deal with numerous medical issues, dental care is often overlooked. Many elders don't have dental insurance. And many times, they and their family members are unaware of the serious health problems linked to poor dental hygiene.
Issues That Affect a Senior's Dental Health
- Financial difficulty and/or lack of insurance
- Difficulty finding a dentist trained to work with the elderly.
- Inability to drive to the dentist office.
- Decay at receding gum line and around fillings.
- Side effects of medications.
A Clean Mouth Prevents All Kinds of Problems
Lack of good nutrition can stem from lost teeth, sore teeth and gums, ill-fitting dentures, or inadequate saliva production. Gum disease is linked to diabetes and heart disease.
Don't Brush Off Brushing
Memory problems, low energy, and difficulties handling the toothbrush and dental floss can all make getting your parents to brush their teeth more like pulling teeth. An electric toothbrush and floss holder often helps. If they are living with you and unable to care for their own teeth, it's up to you to help them brush and floss regularly. If they live in an elder care community, be sure to talk with the director and caregiver about helping your parent with daily dental hygiene.
Ways to Keep Them Smiling
Remind your loved ones of these important tips to keeping their teeth and gums healthy.
- Drink water after meals.
- Brush at least twice a day and rinse with a fluoride rinse.
- Get an electric toothbrush or flosser.
- Don't smoke or chew tobacco.
- Don't drink alcohol in excess.
It's Time to See the Dentist
If going to the dentist is difficult because of dementia or physical impairments, find a dentist who works with handicapped and/or geriatric patients. Many practices now offer sedation dentistry. Be sure to bring a list of all the medications your parent is taking.