Dental Care for Senior Citizens
As we age, changes in our physical body and other resources can make dental care a challenge. Specifically, dental care for the elderly requires some extra planning and effort.
Nowhere is the connection between oral and physical health delineated so clearly as it is with the elderly. About 28% of all seniors don’t have any teeth at all. This makes sense when one considers some of the dental challenges which seniors face.
Many seniors no longer drive and some don’t have ready access to transportation. Trips to the dentist aren’t as high on the priority list as some other activities, and sometimes can even be neglected entirely.
Some seniors require medication, and many of those medications cause ‘dry mouth’. At an age where a person can become easily dehydrated, medications which produce dry mouth make teeth even more susceptible to dental problems because of the important role saliva plays in tooth cleaning.
In addition, he bulk of dental care activities are conducted in the evening after the last meal. This is the time when people, including seniors, can be tired and therefore not be able to do as good a job with their oral care as in the past.
What can be done?
First of all, accommodations to make oral care more comfortable need to be arranged. An electric toothbrush is a good first step. This takes a lot of the effort out of brushing, which makes it easier for an older person to spend the time they need to brush properly and thoroughly. We’ve written about water jet flossers here.
There are small-sized flossers which can be handy for seniors to keep teeth flossed throughout the day, thereby making their flossing at night a supplemental activity rather than the only time of day they floss. If the person has full or partial dentures, they can set aside some time to clean those items earlier in the day.
Family members often want to give their older family members birthday or other holiday gifts just at a time in their lives when seniors are more of a mind to offload material possessions. The gift of transporting a non-driving senior to dental and other appointments is wonderfully thoughtful and a way to engage in intergenerational bonding.
Quality dental checkups and cleanings can catch problems when they’re small and mitigate big dental problems later. A senior should trust their gut if it tells them to go for checkups more frequently, because dental problems in seniors can arrive arrive swiftly and sweepingly due to problems related to dry mouth.
To help with dry mouth, a senior can try drinking more tap (fluoridated) water or some of the lovely rinses made for dry mouth. Some seniors prefer a spray bottle full of water, or sugarless Popsicles or gum.
Dentures and implants can give a senior a beautiful smile, and restore the face to a more natural-looking state. Being able to chew properly can do wonders to improve an elderly person’s diet. Being able to eat better will improve a senior’s overall health and nutrition. And that’s something to smile about!