The Importance of Dental Hygiene for Seniors


Posted by Kia Crawford on November 23rd, 2016 in Education | No Comments

senior-woman-brushing-her-teethThough it may seem insignificant, dental hygiene is one of the most important aspects of health for seniors. As we get older, common oral health issues become more pronounced, as our immune systems are generally less able to combat germs that cause different problems. In addition, when dentures are used, food and other particles are more likely to get lodged in and stuck against the gums, which can lead to issues like gingivitis.

Oral health problems don’t just affect the mouth itself; the mouth is a gateway to the rest of the body, after all. Poor dental hygiene can lead to more serious medical problems, like heart disease and diabetes. Further, nearly a quarter of all seniors have severe gum disease, and related complications lead to hundreds of thousands of emergency room visits a year. Surprisingly, about a third of all of these issues are caused by dry mouth, which can easily be remedied with over-the-counter medications.

At Dogwood Forest, we are dedicated to ensuring our residents are in the best possible health, and we know that starts with dental hygiene. We take time every day to make sure our residents get the assistance they need with tasks like brushing and flossing to make sure their mouths stay healthy for the rest of their lives. Whether they live at home or in an assisted living community, here are a few tips to help your senior maintain excellent oral health.

Warning Signs to Look Out For

As we age, our teeth naturally decay. However, there are certain signs to be on the lookout for, which can denote bad health. First of all, darkened teeth can signify serious issues. Sometimes, they are just a result of a lifetime of drinking coffee and wine, or from smoking. However, it can also be a sign of thinning enamel, the outer layer of the teeth, which allows the dark dentin to show through.

If your loved one has had toothaches or even teeth falling out, it could be a sign of a couple different issues: gum disease and/or root decay. Gum disease is one of the most prevalent dental problems for seniors. It can be caused by anything from using tobacco, to food lodged in the teeth, to shoddy dental structures, to a poor diet, and even from health issues like diabetes. It is also the leading cause of tooth loss. Similarly, root decay is often caused by overexposure to acid, such as reflux or from certain foods and drinks. The root loses its enamel as the gum recedes, causing it to rot.

A build-up of Candida albicans can also be an issue. Candida albicans is a yeast that grows in our digestive tracts and other areas with no side effects. However, it can lead to an infection in the mouth. Often, it develops underneath dentures, causing inflammation. An overgrowth of Candida albicans can also be caused by certain medications; in these cases, the infection is called “thrush.”

Taking Care of Senior Dental Hygiene

Maintaining good oral health in seniors requires much the same care as any other age. It’s important to brush at least twice a day with toothpaste that contains fluoride, which helps teeth stay strong. In addition, flossing at least once a day is vital, as seniors may not realize they have food stuck in their teeth; a water pick may be especially useful. Finally, be sure to use an antiseptic mouthwash, which kills the bacteria that cause plaque and gum disease. Also, don’t skip out on the dentist! They will check for various signs of poor oral health that you may miss.

If your loved one has reached an age where they simply can’t do the simple things like take care of their teeth like they once did, it may be time to consider an assisted living community. Dogwood Forest has many assisted living communities throughout the metro Atlanta area. Contact us today to learn more about how we can help you and your loved one.