The elderly are one of the most vulnerable populations regarding oral health. They are at a higher risk for dental problems and often don’t have access to good dental care. This can lead to serious health problems, including infection and even death. You can do certain things to help keep your elderly loved one’s oral health in check. Here are some of them.
1. Schedule them for regular dental checkups.
First, make sure they are seeing a dentist regularly. The dentist can help identify any problems and provide treatment. Especially if the older person already has health problems, it’s essential to keep on top of their oral health. If the elderly loved one cannot visit the dentist, you can do at-home oral exams to look for abnormalities. When you are looking for abnormalities, look for:
- Red, swollen, or tender gums
- Bleeding gums
- Cracked teeth
- Loose teeth
- Persistent bad breath
If possible, try to find a dentist who can do home visits to help you with this task.
2. Brush their teeth twice a day.
Make sure they brush their teeth twice a day with a soft toothbrush. This will help remove plaque and bacteria from the teeth. If they are unable to do this themselves, help them out. When brushing their teeth, be sure to use a pea-sized amount of toothpaste and brush all the surfaces of the teeth for at least two minutes.
Gentle brushing of the teeth is essential when they have dental veneers because brushing can wear them down over time. Also, make sure that they are using fluoride toothpaste. Fluoride toothpaste helps to strengthen the teeth and protect them from decay. It is important to use toothpaste with the American Dental Association’s (ADA) seal of approval.
3. Use dental floss daily.
Flossing is important for removing bacteria and plaque from in between the teeth. It is also good for keeping the gums healthy. If the elderly loved ones cannot do this themselves, help them out. You can also try using a water flosser if they find it difficult to floss. But note that a water flosser is not as effective as dental floss when removing plaque.
4. Use mouthwash regularly.
Mouthwash can help kill bacteria and reduce plaque. It can also help freshen the breath. Especially if the elderly loved one is struggling with bad breath, mouthwash can help. There are many types of mouthwash available, so find one that the elderly loved one will use.
5. Eat a healthy diet.
A healthy diet ensures that the elderly loved one is getting the nutrients they need for healthy teeth and gums. Be sure to include plenty of fruits and vegetables in their diet. Limiting sugary and acidic foods can also help. Dentists often recommend that people with gum disease avoid citrus fruits. This is because the citric acid in them can irritate the gums.
6. Drink water regularly.
Drinking water helps to clean the teeth and gums. It also helps to keep the mouth moist, which can prevent bacteria from growing. Studies have shown that people who drink water regularly have less plaque on their teeth and fewer dental problems. An easy way to make sure the elderly loved one is drinking enough water is to have them carry a water bottle with them wherever they go.
7. Quit smoking.
Smoking is bad for the teeth and gums. It can cause gum disease and other dental problems. Because the elderly are already at a higher risk for these problems, it is important to persuade them to quit smoking if they do. There are many resources available to help them quit, including counseling and medication.
8. Manage diabetes and other chronic conditions.
If the elderly loved one is managing any health conditions like diabetes or other chronic diseases, managing them properly is important for oral health. These conditions can increase the risk of dental problems. For example, people with diabetes are more likely to get gum disease. Ensure the elderly loved one follows their doctor’s instructions for managing their condition. This will help keep their oral health in check.
9. Use a mouthguard if they grind their teeth at night.
Many people grind their teeth at night. This is known as bruxism. When the elderly grind their teeth while sleeping, it can become a serious problem because their teeth can become weaker with age. Grinding the teeth can wear them down and cause dental problems. If the elderly loved one is grinding their teeth at night, using a mouthguard may help. Consult with their dentist to see if a mouthguard is right for them.
Oral health is important for everyone, especially the elderly. By regularly visiting the dentist, eating a healthy diet, always drinking water, brushing and flossing teeth, and using mouthwash, they can keep their oral health in check. If the elderly loved one is having problems with their oral health, there are many resources available to help. There are also many ways that you can help them out.