When you think about senior care, there is one important area that is often overlooked — dental hygiene. Dental hygiene for seniors is critical and often can be symptomatic of other health concerns.
Why Dental Hygiene for Seniors is So Important
Dental hygiene is not just about having healthy teeth and gums and fresh breath. Dental health is connected to several other medical conditions. Here are a few reasons why dental hygiene for seniors is so important:
When teeth are not properly cleaned, food may be left in teeth leading to plaque buildup, which leads to gum disease. Gum disease can cause tooth loss and has been linked to many problems in the body.
Believe it or not, good oral hygiene is a powerful weapon against heart attacks, strokes and other heart disease conditions. Research has shown that there is a connection between gum disease and heart disease. Gum disease sufferers are nearly twice as likely to also suffer from coronary heart disease. The research also found that oral infection is a risk factor for stroke.
Another side effect of poor oral health for seniors is pneumonia. When bacterial droplets are breathed in from the mouth to the lungs, pneumonia is a possibility. And seniors are most susceptible to this happening. Good oral hygiene is the first step in eliminating this bacteria.
If gum disease becomes severe the body’s ability to use insulin is impacted. High blood sugar, which is an effect of diabetes, can lead to gum infection. Good oral care in addition to regular dental checkups can help prevent this condition.
Maintaining Good Dental Hygiene
It is recommended that teeth are brushed and flossed daily. However, if your senior loved one has moderate to severe arthritis of the fingers or hands, he or she may have difficulty brushing and flossing. Plaque can build up quickly on the teeth of seniors, especially if oral hygiene is neglected, and lead to tooth decay and gum disease. Many dentists recommend that seniors use an electric toothbrush to aid in good oral hygiene. If your senior wears full or partial dentures, they should be removed nightly and cleaned. Additionally, dental hygiene for seniors should include a visit to a dentist once or twice a year.
Caregivers should monitor dental hygiene on a regular basis. Caregivers from Assisted Living Services are trained to monitor dental hygiene for seniors. If you have any questions or concerns regarding care for your senior loved one, please contact our office.