Health is wealth and it rings truer than ever during the later years of life. Like several other ailments, older people also develop dental problems. It is important to note here that many diseases are caused due to poor oral health. However, age is not the sole factor that causes different dental problems. Sometimes, a health condition like arthritis might result in severe pain, so much so that brushing or taking care of oral health becomes a struggle. In that sense, many of the common dental problems can be a result of that. Therefore, the importance of oral health cannot be overstated. But before you do that, you first need to know about these common dental problems in the elderly. The most common dental problems include:
1. Dry Mouth
The body’s ability to produce saliva decreases with age. As a result, an old person’s mouth does not produce as much saliva as it once did when they were young. In many people, this condition is further exacerbated by the medication they are taking. As a result of both of these, dry mouth becomes a fairly common dental problem in the elderly. Because of this, many people have a hard time eating food, especially if it’s dry, like vegetable, bread, roti, etc. As this worsens, swallowing food becomes difficult for they have to chew the food for too long, and swallowing dry food becomes an inconvenience. This further leads to loss of appetite.
During old age, the body needs more nutrition, and when it doesn’t get it, the health deteriorates. It is, thus, recommended for the elderly to frequently drink warm water throughout the day as it prevents the mouth from drying.
2. Bad Breath
The role of saliva is not restricted to moistening the food; it also moistens the inside of the mouth which prevents the production of bacteria in the mouth that causes bad breath. When someone has a dry mouth, they most definitely have bad breath too. Brushing two times a day is helpful but it cannot compensate for the dry mouth for a long time. Bad breath also makes it difficult for the family members to look after the elderly at home because they have to be near the elderly often. In fact, no one can, and people slowly distance themselves from the elderly. Sometimes it is also because of a denture problem in the elderly. Prolonged usage of dentures causes inflammation in the delicate tissues of the mouth which can eventually cause bad breath.
A preferred way to treat denture problems in the elderly is by getting it properly fitted and cleaning it regularly.
3. Tooth Decay
With age, tooth decay also becomes one of the common teeth problems. Slow tooth decay at this age can also lead to infection, pain, and, in some cases, loss of teeth. The reason for this is the gradual build-up of plaque and tartar. In many people, arthritis causes pain in the knuckles and wrists, making it difficult for them to brush properly. When a person does not brush properly, cavities are created with time which turns into tooth decay. Amongst all different teeth problems, this one is majorly caused due to another problem. What also plays a role in tooth decay is a diet rich in sugary content, or snacks, and even decreased saliva production. It is recommended by dental experts for the elderly to use fluoride-based toothpaste.
There is no definitive way to cure a cavity; the only way out is its prevention. You will have to ensure that the elderly at your home brush two times a day, floss one time a day, drink water frequently and do not excessively consume sugary food. You can also schedule dentist visits for the elderly or ask the medical practitioner providing home care service to provide medical treatment for the same.
4. Receding Gums
A frequently recurring dental problem that the elderly face is receding gums. The most common causes for gum recession are smoking, frequently grinding teeth, poor dental hygiene, and family history. Family history of gum recession cannot be avoided but other factors can be avoided to minimise risk. If the elderly in your home smoke, help them in getting rid of this harmful habit. If gum recession is left untreated, it increases the likelihood of gum disease and tooth decay.
To avoid this common dental problem, ensure that the elderly people in your home have good oral hygiene. You can also visit the dentist or talk to the home care service provider for the same. Sometimes deep cleaning is helpful but opt for it only after the medical expert prescribes it.
5. Oral Sores
Of all the common dental diseases and disorders in the elderly, the worst one of them is oral sores. The risk of developing oral sores increases with time. For someone who smokes and/or drinks regularly, the risk is even higher. If this is not treated in time, it can lead to oral cancer. That is why you should get it medically checked out if the ulcers in the mouth are persistent or there is a change in the colour of the skin around the teeth. Cancer is still an untreatable disease so if one gets affected by it, it is important to get it checked and consider the treatment options as soon as it is diagnosed. One of the ways to know of the underlying dental problems like oral sores, is regular Dental check up. Ensure that the elderly receive a regular dental check up to keep their oral health good.
Another common dental problem that arises out of these dental problems is anorexia. It is when elders start eating less due to the disease (not necessarily to lose weight) and they weaken as a result of it. When you have a home care service provider for the elderly at home, ensure that they have an anorexia care plan for the elderly. You can also contact Emoha for professional home care services to look after your elderly at home because for us, it is always #EldersFirst