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A healthy mouth is important for maintaining quality of life, especially for the sick, the elderly and residents in long-term care or retirement homes. With proper oral hygiene many seniors are keeping their teeth longer than ever before and dentures do not have to be a fact of life. For those wearing dentures, it is still important to keep them clean to avoid any oral health problems.
Oral health is an important part of overall health and there is a correlation between having periodontal (gum) disease with an increased risk of developing heart disease, stroke, and respiratory disorders.
Common oral health problems associated with seniors
Cavities on the root surfaces. These are often due to a history of tooth brushing incorrectly which exposes the root surfaces and increases their vulnerability to decay, since unlike enamel (which is very hard) root surfaces have no protective covering.
Periodontal Disease : This is caused by a bacterial build-up(plaque) on the teeth that causes inflammation of the gums and with time works it’s way down to the underlying bone and starts to deteriorate it which eventually leads to tooth loss.
Dry Mouth : Though there are numerous causes to having a dry mouth, the main culprits in seniors are medications. This leads to having an increased susceptibility to decay since the saliva has many re-mineralizing qualities for the teeth which help prevent decay.
Treatment, Prevention and Maintenance :
Visiting a dental hygienist regularly (every 3, 6, or 9 months) is important for maintaining a healthy mouth. A dental dental hygienist can customize a preventive care plan based on your current oral habits, your health status, as well as your abilities.
Daily hygiene of brushing your teeth with a soft toothbrush or with a mechanical toothbrush which has a larger handle makes it easier to grasp for a more thorough cleaning. Areas to include in addition to the actual tooth surface are the tongue, gums and roof of the mouth since these areas also accumulate plaque.
Floss/Cleaning in between teeth - once a day cleaning between teeth is very important to remove any remaining plaque that remains after tooth-brushing. There are areas that cannot be accessed with a toothbrush and there are various aids that may be used to accomplish this, with the most common being dental floss. Since many seniors find this challenging there are various other products that can also be used such as one-handled flossers, floss picks, and small inter-dental brushes that come in various sizes to accommodate different size spaces.
Daily Use of Mouthwash: To help reduce the amounts of bacteria and plaque try to incorporate rinsing daily with an antimicrobial mouthwash as the last step in your daily oral hygiene care.
Denture care is also important since they too accumulate food and plaque and need to be cleaned after meals as well as soaked in a cleaning solution every evening before bed. In the morning they should be rinsed and brushed thoroughly over a sink partially filled with water in the event that the denture is accidentally dropped.
Maintaining a healthy mouth is important for overall health, and doing your part by maintaining good oral hygiene habits is one of the many ways to ensure you keep your teeth for a lifetime.