Why Dental Care is Important For Seniors
Did you know poor dental health harms your well-being? Oral health problems accumulate throughout adult life. As we age, we become prone to worse dental issues. Dental health has a direct effect on your general health. Oral health is the root cause of most medical and emergency hospital visits, especially among seniors. Maintaining appropriate oral health practices is crucial in eliminating oral and other systemic conditions. That is why dental care is important for seniors.
Consequences of Poor Oral Health 1. Heart Diseases
Poor oral health causes gum infections. The bacteria responsible for these infections can travel through the blood vessels. The bacteria causes a narrowing of the blood flow, and the arteries begin to swell. With time, the blood vessel inflammations cause damage, triggering a heart attack and sometimes forming blood clots along the blood vessels. Having routine dental visits can help prevent this health hazard, which is why dental care is important for seniors.
For seniors with pre-existing heart conditions, gum infection can worsen them, exposing them to strokes. It is also crucial for seniors who’ve already been diagnosed with heart-related conditions to take extra precautions when handling their dental health, which is why dental care is important for seniors. It is important to talk to the cardiologist before undergoing any oral treatments. Some medications administered by dentists could result in excessive bleeding during certain procedures, exposing you to health risks.
2. Oral cancer
Oral cancer can appear as a lump or sore in your mouth, lips or throat. Primarily, oral cancers are diagnosed among senior individuals. The risk is, however, higher for those who smoke cigars and cigarettes or chew tobacco. Oral cancer spreads very fast. It is critical to have regular dental visits because early detection could control it by stopping further spreading.
Like other cancers, oral cancer can be treated by radiation or chemotherapy, depending on where cancer originated from and your general health. Regardless, these treatments pose life-threatening risks to older individuals. That is why dental care is important for seniors.
High blood sugar levels make it difficult to keep your mouth healthy. High blood sugar levels also weaken the white blood cells, making the body prone to infections. High sugar levels in the blood mean high sugar levels in the saliva, which creates a conducive environment for bacteria to thrive as they feed on sugar. These bacteria cause tooth decay, cavities, and gun-related infections. These infections take time to heal because weak white blood cells produce an irresponsive immune system, resulting in uncontrolled diabetes.
Seniors with uncontrolled diabetes are also at risk of a decrease in the flow of saliva. The result is a dry mouth prone to tooth decay, ulcers, and infections, escalating oral health further. Uncontrolled diabetes also causes gum inflammation, which slows down the flow of nutrients to the mouth tissues. The flow of waste products from mouth tissues is also slowed down. This combination weakens the gums further, resulting in severe gum damage and bleeding.
Seniors with uncontrolled diabetes are also prone to fungal infections, especially when dentures are involved. Like bacteria, fungus thrives in high sugar levels. Fungus infections cause thrush, the root cause of a burning tongue or mouth. Apart from discomfort, a burning mouth can significantly affect your quality of life.
If you have diabetes, you can reduce or prevent oral complications by;
- Ensure that your dentist and diabetes doctor constantly communicate about your health status. The two should also communicate before carrying out any procedures or administering medication.
- If a dental procedure is not an emergency, avoid it. Teeth implant procedures could expose you to germs invasion, threatening your entire well-being.
- Follow your doctor’s instructions to help control and maintain an average blood sugar level.
Uncontrolled blood sugar levels could cause eye problems in older individuals, which could cause blindness if not given proper medical attention, a critical reason why dental care is important for seniors. Inflamed blood vessels, due to high blood sugar levels, hinder a constant blood supply to the eye’s retina. It is crucial to let opticians in on any oral or diabetic condition before treatment.
4. Respiratory Infections
When the bacteria on the teeth or gums is not treated, it grows, multiplies, and eventually spreads further into the lungs. These bacteria damage the lungs if they go for a while without proper medical attention. It exposes the lungs to worse infections which cause respiratory-related diseases such as pneumonia, which is why dental care is important for seniors. Early detection could prevent such complications.
Oral bacteria also worsens chronic inflammation along the airways. Inflamed airways cause serious chronic diseases such as asthma, bronchitis, pulmonary hypertension, and emphysema. Like any medication, lung treatments can also worsen your condition, especially if your specialist is unaware of the underlying gum bacteria infection. That is why dental care is important for seniors. It helps avoid unnecessary complications.
5. Tooth Loss
To many, this is a normal occurrence among seniors. What the majority do not know is proper dental care can eliminate it. Teeth loss can be associated with untreated dental infections such as cavities. Cavities are characterized by holes in the teeth caused by a bacterial infection that turns into tooth decay. When left untreated, they destroy the teeth’s pulp, resulting in teeth removal.
Gum diseases are the leading cause of loss of teeth among seniors. These infections cause inflammation which destroys gum tissues along with the jawbone underneath. Weak gums and jawbones mean weak teeth support, causing them to fall out.
A senior individual with a smoking habit is also at risk of tooth loss. The effect of smoking causes periodontal diseases. These diseases weaken the tooth structure leaving it weak and prone to falling out. Most smokers live with this condition unnoticed since they ignore their oral health. It is dangerous because it could lead to the loss of multiple teeth with the advancement of age.
Adapting good eating habits can make a significant difference in keeping teeth intact regardless of how old you are. Poor eating habits are a major contributing factor to decayed teeth. Consuming high sugar levels encourages oral bacteria as they feed on sugar. The result is an acidic formation that slowly eats up and destroys the enamel. Tooth cavities can go much deeper into the layers of your teeth, causing them to weaken and eventually fall out.
6. Gum diseases
It is normal for gums to recede with age due to the wear and tear effect. Without proper care, they can be prone to infections which could lead to serious gum diseases. The most severe gum disease is periodontitis. It is characterized by tender gums, bad breath, and puffy and bleeding gums. Periodontitis progression can be categorized into four stages.
The initial stage is characterized by unchecked gingivitis. The oral bacteria build-up at this stage causes plaque below the gum line. The initial stage is treatable using a deep clean called debridement. The damage between the tooth’s ligaments and sockets is slight in the initial stage. In the second stage, however, the damage is more evident and permanent.
In stage three, severe gum recession becomes noticeable. It makes the teeth appear longer. Teeth start to feel loose at this stage. The only suitable treatment at this stage is periodontal surgery. The final stage of periodontitis completely causes damage to the entire tooth structure; not even acupuncture can help. Patients lose multiple teeth at this stage and can continue to lose more if not referred to a periodontics. Periodontitis can be prevented early, which is why dental care is important for seniors.
Tips on Dental Care
Regular oral exams and cleanings are crucial in maintaining healthy teeth. If pets need a regular teeth check-up with a pet doctor, what more a human being? Regular dental check-ups examine your entire condition, from your teeth, gums, tongue, and lips, to your throat. X-rays are also conducted to know what is happening in your mouth. With such dental visits, your mouth will not be susceptible to oral infections. The advantages of regular oral check-ups include;
- Prevention of future dental issues. Your dentist can detect a concern that could worsen and immediately treat it.
- Dental check-ups keep your teeth looking good. The cleaning removes tar build-up and plaque, reducing the risk of stains. Additionally, good-looking teeth improve your self-esteem.
- Regular dental visits keep you informed on proper dental hygiene. When professionals monitor your oral health, they will advise you on the do’s and don’ts as far as your oral health is concerned.
- Dental visits help treat bad breath. Your dentist can pinpoint the issue and treat it. Sometimes lousy odor can be caused by simple things such as poor eating habits, but you wouldn’t know unless you get checked by a professional.
- Routine dental visits can detect other systemic issues. Dentists also check jaws and necks for swelling and lumps, which could indicate other underlying issues.
- Routine check-ups give you peace of mind. Certain dental issues are characterized by extreme pain if not attended to immediately. Regular dental visits deal with such issues prior.
Practicing good dental hygiene habits is crucial in maintaining healthy teeth as you age. Plaques build up fast and become much more difficult to get rid of in senior individuals. These habits include;
- Brushing and flossing after every meal, or at least twice a day, when you wake up and before you go to bed.
- Use a soft bristle toothbrush.
- Normalise using mouthwash to avoid dental cavities.
- Be gentle when cleaning your teeth.
Taking a lot of water has multiple oral benefits. Fluoridated water, nature’s cavity fighter, prevents cavities by strengthening teeth. It is the most cost-effective way to prevent tooth decay. Water also acts as a cleaning agent. It washes away leftover food residues, which prevents the growth and multiplication of cavity-causing bacteria. Water protects teeth from damage from acidic formations by diluting the acids.
Saliva is 99% water. Saliva acts as your mouth’s defence against tooth decay. Low saliva goes hand in hand with a dry mouth. A dry mouth exposes you to the risk of tooth decay. Drinking enough water ensures the production of saliva at an optimal rate. It is also important to use water softeners that will not eradicate fluoride minerals. Use water softening agents only when it is necessary.
Smoking escalates dental issues. Tooth decay and gum infections are higher among individuals who smoke. Quitting can restore your oral health to normal. It is important to treat dentures like you would your natural teeth. Keeping them clean prevents more loss of teeth, inflamed gums, and fungal infections.
Dentures are supposed to be brushed and soaked every day. It is important to brush the dentures first to get rid of any bits of food particles. Always use a non-abrasive cleaner. Scrub all surfaces equally gently to avoid grooves on their surface. Soaking dentures in a denture-cleaning solution daily helps remove plaque and stubborn stains.
It is crucial to share any existing medical condition with your dental specialist. This information is critical in determining the treatment methodology. For a patient with blood pressure, aesthetic treatment might not be convenient. Sharing such information with your dental specialists gives them adequate time to conduct tests and find other alternatives.
Most seniors may not be able to stick to all these recommendations. Hiring senior care assistance for senior relatives is the best option to ensure their oral health is well maintained. An in house testing service should also be available for seniors who find it difficult to visit dental clinics.
Other Health Habits
Other dental care tips to include
- Lip moisturization using mild balms or Vaseline.
- Avoiding sticky foods.
- Treat sores immediately to avoid thrush.
Taking care of oral health is essential to living a happy, healthy life, a good reason why dental care is important for seniors. Oral health should, therefore, be a priority for older and younger individuals.