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As a rule, people from all walks of life need to take care of their dental health. Our mothers cleaned our mouths when we were toothless babies, and we are expected to continue caring for our teeth as we grow older.
Seniors, however, are going to require more attention in that regard, as their advancing age makes them more vulnerable to serious medical conditions related to poor dental health.
Dental health has always been closely associated with overall health, especially when people grow older.
Unless they practice proper dental care for seniors, the elderly will be at a higher risk of developing the following health issues:
When an elderly individual doesn’t practice good oral hygiene, he or she will likely develop gum disease, the top cause of tooth loss in adults.
As it turns out, gum disease doesn’t just make people lose their teeth.
There is also a strong link between periodontitis and heart disease.
The American Academy of Periodontology says studies have shown that a person has an increased risk of heart disease if he or she has periodontal disease and that it can also make existing heart conditions worse.
To minimize the risk of heart disease and strokes, seniors will need to improve their oral care habits.
Diabetes and gum disease are also closely related. Poor oral and dental care habits lead to gum disease, and its more severe version, periodontitis, affects the way our bodies use insulin.
If a senior has gum disease, controlling blood sugar levels is going to be more challenging. High blood sugar can lead to gum infections.
With proper oral hygiene and care, seniors have a better chance of avoiding this rather unfortunate cycle involving diabetes and periodontitis.
A mouth that hasn’t seen proper oral care will likely be a breeding ground for countless bacteria.
There is always a risk that oral bacteria will make its way from the mouth into the lungs and cause pneumonia, which can be life-threatening, especially among seniors.
Considering how dangerous poor oral health can get for the elderly, it is incredibly important for caregivers to emphasize proper dental and oral care practices.
Proper oral care is doubly important if an older adult is no longer capable of brushing or flossing and is already dependent on caregivers for his or her personal care needs.
Like everybody else, seniors’ oral health can benefit from brushing twice a day with a soft-bristle toothbrush and toothpaste with fluoride, flossing, and dental checkups and cleanings every six months.
Dental care, however, can go beyond brushing, flossing, and regular visits to the dentist.
Some of the things seniors can do to improve their oral health include:
It’s never too late to make dental care for seniors a priority. With the help of dentists, loved ones, and their caregivers, it is still possible for older adults to attain a level of oral health that will help them keep their overall health as well.
About the Author
Dr. Megan Peterson Boyle is the lead cosmetic dentist with Dental Studio 101 in Scottsdale, Arizona. She is focused on providing anxiety-free cosmetic dentistry services including Invisalign, dental implants, dental crowns, and cosmetic fillings. She enjoys spending time outdoors with her friends and family.