What You Need To Know About Senior Oral Healthcare
Dental care for older patients is just as important as for those who are younger, but it’s an issue that often doesn’t get enough attention. While tooth ailments can seem minor when a person is faced with other issues associated with the aging process, a healthy mouth is important for a number of reasons. Minor problems, when left unchecked, can lead to serious maladies that will have a drastic impact on a person’s overall health.
Making matters worse, there are certain problems that only afflict people as they grow older, and their onset can often come as an unwelcome surprise. It’s recommended that patients who are 55 or older discuss their oral healthcare with a dentist at their earliest convenience to learn about what specific conditions they should be aware of and what preventative actions they can take to maintain a healthy mouth for many years to come.
At Grand Lake Dental, Dr. Karl Jobst and our entire team are committed to serving patients of all ages in the Grove, Oklahoma area. That starts with offering guidance on how to preserve your dental health no matter what your age.
What is the link between oral healthcare and a person’s overall well being?
Scientists are discovering more links between a person’s oral health and their overall health every year. The research is continuing to uncover the myriad of ways that ailments afflicting your teeth and gums have a direct impact on your full body wellness.
For instance, did you know that an infection that begins in the teeth or gums can be conveyed to other parts of the body, including the lungs, heart, and brain? I think we can all agree that a heart or brain infection sounds a lot more severe than a tooth infection. Another serious issue related to bad teeth is malnutrition. Studies show there’s an increase in the likelihood of a person, especially an older person, suffering from malnutrition when they are in a great deal of tooth pain.
The converse is true as well. Health problems in other parts of the body can manifest in the mouth, so it sometimes happens that a dentist will be the first person to diagnose a patient for a serious ailment that originated elsewhere.
For example, seniors are more susceptible to compromised immune systems. One of the symptoms of this is periodontal disease. It’s possible for your dentist to diagnose problems such as diabetes or another systematic condition due to certain kinds of gum disease. Likewise, a weakening of the teeth or unexplained loosening can be a sign of vitamin deficiency, osteoporosis, or a general decrease in bone density, all of which seniors are more prone to.
There are even some issues that researchers have yet to identify a cause for, but for which they have identified clear and undeniable links. For example, there is a clear and provable connection between cardiovascular disease and gum disease, though the exact reasons are still unclear. There is also a recognized relationship between dental problems and certain forms of cancer, particularly in older patients.
All of these examples should make it very clear that oral hygiene is extremely important to a person’s overall health, especially in patients over the age of 55.
What issues should senior patients be aware of?
There are certain conditions that older patients should be specifically on the look out for. First of all, senior citizens are more prone to a lessened sense of taste. Given the link to Covid-19, we’re probably all more knowledgeable about how a loss of smell and taste can indicate a serious health problem.
Patients should also be on the alert for darkened or discolored teeth. While some change in color can be attributed to aging, there are a number of health conditions that are associated with tooth discoloration. Dry mouth is another warning sign that can have a number of different causes, anything from a side effect of certain medications to serious diseases such as Sjogren’s Syndrome.
As mentioned above, periodontal disease can be the result of a variety of problems. Infections are known to jump throughout the body and rarely remain isolated in one spot unless treated quickly. Gum disease can be connected to a lack of adequate teeth cleaning, use of tobacco products and caffeine, poor nutrition, anemia, cancer, diabetes, pneumonia, and even improperly fitted dentures.
As you get older, it’s not unusual to start to lose some of your natural teeth and have them replaced by dentures. This can also lead to a number of problems. One thing to watch out for is an uneven jawbone, which can occur when one or more teeth are no longer present, but also is a result of aging and osteoporosis. Other concerns include stomatitis, thrush, fungal infections, and more.
This is why it’s essential that older patients have regular access to dental care and consult with dental professionals to adjust their daily oral routines to adapt to the aging process.
What types of oral routines are recommended for elderly patients?
The good news is that there are a number of actions that can be taken to ensure that your teeth remain healthy as you age. We recommend that patients over 55 schedule a regular dental check up every six months to ensure that any problems are identified early before they become serious.
More than ever, elderly patients should maintain excellent dental habits, including daily flossing and rinsing of teeth, as well as brushing after every meal. Don’t forget to brush your gums, tongue, and the roof of your mouth, to get rid of bacteria and plaque build up.
For many older patients, arthritis is a problem that makes dental care challenging. Options such as an electric toothbrush and other technical advances make caring for your teeth easier than ever. Moreover, a healthy diet with an eye towards a healthy mouth is crucial. Consult with your dentist on what foods should be avoided.
Your Grove, Oklahoma, Senior Dental Specialist
Dr. Karl Jobst believes that proper dental care is a lifelong endeavor. Our team is proud to serve the senior citizens of Oklahoma with the best oral hygiene and preventative care facilities in the region. Contact us today to schedule a consultation.