October is National Dental Hygiene Month, which serves as an annual reminder for the importance of maintaining good dental health. Our mouth, teeth, and gums don’t exist in a vacuum. Instead, they play a critical role in the health of our entire body. In many cases, health problems in the mouth can indicate problems in the rest of the body and vice versa. Perhaps more than any other group, this relationship affects seniors, who may struggle taking care of their teeth. In addition, poor oral health also impacts chronic diseases, which already affect many seniors.
Poor Dental Hygiene Impacts Seniors
It’s often difficult for seniors to take care of their teeth. Mobility issues make it more challenging to get out of the house for regular dental cleaning and checkups. Also, common afflictions like arthritis in the fingers and hands make gripping a toothbrush difficult. As a result, seniors may miss checkups or stop regularly brushing and flossing. This breakdown in oral care allows harmful plaque and bacteria to build up — causing big problems throughout the mouth. To complicate matters, many chronic conditions common among seniors as well as certain medications and cancer treatments can worsen dental health problems. All this makes it necessary for family members and caregivers to monitor the dental health of the seniors in their lives. Many of the most common senior dental problems include:
Researchers increasingly see a connection between gum disease and heart disease. Though the exact link isn’t yet clear, doctors believe the same inflammation that causes gum disease, also leads to atherosclerosis or hardening of the arteries. When arteries harden, blood flow is restricted — resulting in an increased risk of heart attack or stroke. Poor gum health also impacts heart health by allowing bacteria into the bloodstream. When inflammation breaks the gum layer, the bacteria living in your mouth can then enter the bloodstream. Once there, the bacteria can travel to other parts of your body — including the heart — and cause further inflammation.
Diabetes and gum disease also work hand-in-hand. Severe gum diseases, also called periodontitis, makes it more difficult for your body to use insulin. Moreover, the high blood sugar that comes as a result of diabetes can also lead to gum disease.
Studies show that poor oral health can lead to pneumonia in older people. If seniors allow bacteria to build up in their mouths, it can be drawn into their lungs when breathing, increasing the risk for pneumonia. Daily brushing and regular tooth cleaning can help prevent this.
Your saliva keeps your mouth wet, which in turn keeps your teeth healthy and controls bacteria, fungus, and virus levels. Certain medications and some cancer treatments cause dry mouth, which can increase the risk of tooth decay and gum disease.
Many seniors wear dentures. When these don’t fit correctly, it can cause painful inflammation in the underlying tissue.
How to Improve Senior Dental Hygiene
It’s so important for seniors to pay close attention to their dental health. If seniors aren’t able to do this for themselves, those duties must fall to family members or caregivers. Here are five things you can do to ensure your loved one’s mouth, teeth, and gums remain as healthy as possible.
- Brush twice per day using fluoride toothpaste.
- Floss between teeth once a day.
- Rinse your mouth with antiseptic mouthwash a couple of times per day.
- Visit the dentist for regular cleanings and examinations.
- If you wear dentures, clean them regularly and remove them overnight.
Generations Home Care Can Help with Senior Dental Hygiene
When seniors can’t take care of their dental care, the caregivers with Generations Home Care can help. Not only do they assist with regular tasks of daily living — like brushing and flossing — they can also provide transportation to dental appointments. More importantly, an in-home caregiver works as an essential extra set of eyes, closely watching changes in a senior’s overall health. In addition, Generation Home Care’s Continuum of Care can connect seniors to other healthcare resources, including mobile dentistry. This service provides vital dental care inside a senior’s home, which can be a lifesaver for seniors who have difficulty traveling.
If you live in Arizona and would like to learn more about how Generations Home Care can help support your older loved one’s health. Contact us today. We’d love to chat.
About Generations Home Care
Generations Home Care personalized in-home care and support services help those recovering from illness, injury or surgery, living with a chronic disease, or dealing with the natural process of aging. We help people live a fuller, healthier, and independent life.
We offer levels of care ranging from companionship, to respite for the primary family caregiver, to homemaking services, to assistance with activities of daily living, to Alzheimer’s and dementia care. Generations Home Care takes a holistic approach and emphasizes a consistent, client-centered plan of care.
Our Specialty Services Include:
- Rehab or hospital-to-home programs for safe discharge.
- Short-term post-operative care during recovery periods.
- Non-medical life management services for people with chronic conditions.
- Veteran’s connection to care program.
- Live-in services and couples care.
If you’d like to learn more about how we can help you, contact us today at 602-595-HOME (4663) or by filling out the contact form on our website.