A healthy mouth is an important part of overall physical wellness, but oral health is often forgotten when evaluating an older adult’s overall wellness. It is important for older adults to have good oral hygiene practices that include daily brushing and flossing, regular dental office visits and some basic knowledge of what oral health looks like as they age because it will help:
• avoid, reduce or eliminate pain;
• promote and facilitate eating a well-balanced diet; and
• avoid chronic disease and severe health conditions, such as heart disease, stroke, diabetes and respiratory disease.
As your loved one ages, watch for signs that he is having trouble maintaining good oral health. Look for the following:
• Reduced sense of taste: Decay, medication, disease and denture problems can reduce the sense of taste.
• Dry mouth: A reduced saliva flow can leave teeth at risk for decay. Saliva helps protect the teeth.
• Gum disease: Ill-fitting dentures, use of tobacco, poor nutrition, such diseases as diabetes, and a buildup of plaque caused by a lack of daily brushing and flossing can cause gum disease.
• Inflammation from dentures: Ill-fitting dentures can cause inflammation and pain.
• Darkened teeth: Darkening teeth can be a sign that the dentin is changing or deteriorating.
• Thrush: Look for a white film on the tongue, which is caused by an overgrowth of fungus in the mouth.
• Medication side effects: Talk to your pharmacist about medication side effects and interactions.
Resources are available to help you get access to dental care for your loved one. You can start by contacting your Area Agency on Aging, which will have an up-to-date list of dental services and programs available for older adults in your area.
Source: Times Dispatch