Oral Health in Seniors

June 1, 2023

Seniors are prone to suffering from serious medical conditions related to poor dental hygiene. There is evidence that gum diseases, such as periodontitis, can be linked to heart disease and diabetes, as well as other systemic complications.

Healthy teeth allow seniors to enjoy their food more without suffering from painful chewing and swallowing. Seniors suffering from untreated tooth decay or premature loss of teeth will find themselves opting for soft foods, as opposed to fresh fruits and veggies — which can affect nutrition. 

How to Help Seniors With Their Oral Care

Seniors tackle a series of roadblocks when it comes to receiving regular dental care, such as lack of transportation, memory loss, and physical and mental impairments that may prevent them from making their appointment.

Some seniors require additional help when it comes to brushing and flossing, as well as regular visits to the dentist for cleanings. Certain medical conditions, such as painful arthritis in the hands, can affect a senior’s ability to brush or floss. Left unaddressed, this can lead to ongoing oral issues.

Whether your elderly loved one resides in an assisted living facility or at home, they may benefit from regular reminders to brush twice a day and to floss at least once. A soft-bristled toothbrush and fluoride toothpaste helps to keep their gums healthy. According to the American Dental Association, antiseptic mouthwash has been proven to reduce plaque and gum disease. 

If your senior wears full or partial dentures, they should be reminded to remove them at night. Not only can they be uncomfortable to sleep in, but they should also be cleaned regularly. Denture-induced stomatitis is linked to ill-fitting dentures, poor hygiene, and potential inflammation. 

Risk Factors Related to Poor Oral Hygiene

Receiving dental checkups every six months prevents an issue from getting out of hand and allows the dentist to check for any sores, ulcers, swelling, and signs of infection or oral cancer. 

Without proper and consistent checkups, seniors are at an increased risk of:

  • Root Decay — Exposure of the root due to acids can cause the gum to begin to recede, leaving a sensitive, sometimes painful area.
  • Oral Cancer — The median age for diagnosis with this disease is 62, further strengthening the case for frequent dental checkups. 
  • Tooth Decay — Over 90% of adults aged 65 and over have had at least one cavity, with 20% suffering from untreated tooth decay. 
  • Gum Disease — This can be caused by plaque buildup, tobacco products, or other chronic issues such as diabetes, affecting nearly 68% of the senior population. 
  • Tooth Loss — Often caused by untreated gum disease; nearly 1 in 5 seniors have lost all their teeth.
  • Dry Mouth — Many medications have the side effect of reducing saliva production, which can increase a senior’s risk of cavities.

Improving Senior Dental Care 

Priority Life Care is committed to providing quality care for seniors. For seniors who have suffered from poor dental hygiene in the past, it’s not too late to turn their oral health around. Many communities work with dental companies for easy, on-site visits. With the help of a qualified dental professional and caregivers who can keep up with daily brushing, flossing, rinsing, and removing and cleaning dentures every night — dental well-being can be regained.

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