Longevity and quality of life are important topics for any senior. Protecting them involves many things including following a healthy diet, establishing relationships with trusted medical professionals, exercising regularly and maintaining social ties. Another important aspect of health and longevity that is sometimes forgotten is dental health. The health of the mouth is related to many other systems within the body. It also impacts eating and communicating. That’s why it’s important for all seniors to make oral health care a priority.
As a person ages, the teeth and gums are sometimes compromised. Dry mouth, periodontal disease, dental infections and tooth loss are all common senior dental problems. On their own, any of these problems can cause pain and discomfort. If left untreated, they can also cause some serious health concerns.
Research indicates a link exists between gum health and heart health. The American Academy of Periodontology states that seniors with periodontal disease are almost twice as likely to experience heart disease or coronary artery disease. Regular brushing, flossing and bi-annual visits to the dentist keep gums healthy. These activities also reduce a person’s risk of succumbing to a stroke or heart attack.
When a person has cavities, excessive plaque or gum disease, bacteria exists in the mouth and is sometimes breathed into the lungs. Seniors are more susceptible to this condition which has been linked to pneumonia. The more frail a person’s condition, the greater the risk a diagnosis of pneumonia is. This makes it extremely important for family members and professional caregivers to assist seniors with late stage dementia or Alzheimer’s with regular brushing and flossing. These are tasks cogntively impaired seniors are often not capable of completing independently.
Periodontitis or severe gum swelling, bleeding and pain inhibits the body’s ability to properly use insulin. High blood sugar also often leads to gum infections. When either gum disease or diabetes is not managed properly, a person sometimes enters a vicious circle that negatively impacts overall health. This is why it is important for diabetics to establish a relationship with a dentist and visit twice a year. Regular brushing and flossing are also essential components to overall health for diabetics.
Saliva is an important liquid created by the body. It controls bacteria growth and prevents infections in the mouth. Certain medications and cancer treatments can cause the body to create less saliva. This leads to dry mouth. The cure for dry mouth includes increasing the consumption of liquids, visiting a dentist and sometimes, making changes to prescribed medications. If dry mouth cannot be properly controlled, it is even more important for a senior to brush and floss regularly. These activities prevent the buildup of plaque and bacteria, keeping the mouth healthier.
When teeth are lost due to decay or damage, it impacts the health of the mouth. If proper care is not taken to replace missing teeth with implants, dentures or a bridge, the jaw bone is sometimes compromised and surrounding teeth might also be damaged. When dentures, bridges and dentures are put in place, it is important to ensure they fit properly so as not to hinder eating or communicating or cause pain to the aging adult.
The best way to avoid many of these health problems is to take care of your teeth. Seniors are encouraged to brush twice a day using a soft bristled toothbrush and fluoride toothpaste. Flossing daily is also important. If dentures are worn, make sure to clean them daily. Some dentists may recommend rinses to help with dry mouth or other oral health concerns. Follow any directions given as to their use, and follow up with a dentist if any problems are experienced. Bi-annual visits to the dentist for cleanings an checkups are also recommended to keep the mouth healthy and for early detection of any health concerns.
Salus Homecare San Fernando Valley supports seniors and continues to advocate for improved health and longevity. Providing information on dental health is one way in which we do this. If you or a loved one are having difficulty managing your personal care needs, our professional caregivers are ready to assist on a full-time or part-time basis. Care is based on a personalized plan of care and always provided in the comfort of home. Call us anytime and request a free, no obligation consultation.
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