Posted by Dr. William Yoo
Your oral health is directly connected to your overall health. And as you get older, it becomes increasingly important to ensure good dental and oral health. Many people mistakenly believe that tooth loss is a natural component of ageing. This is simply a myth. Just as regular brushing and flossing, as well as routine dental visits are critical for preventing cavities in children, good dental habits can help ensure that your teeth last a lifetime. Good oral hygiene is even more important for seniors as it reduces the risk of more serious health problems, including diabetes, pneumonia, and heart disease.
The ageing process can be tough on your teeth, gums, and mouth, just as it is on your other body parts. As you get older, you become more susceptible to plaque buildup, in addition to the weakening and cracking of older fillings. Your teeth also tend to become brittle due to reduced remineralization. Many seniors also report diminished muscular control, which makes chewing difficult and increases denture slippage for wearers. Seniors are also at greater risk of developing periodontal disease.
Although these factors indicate an increased risk of oral problems for seniors, this is not necessarily the case for healthy individuals. In fact, a recent study in Ontario found that most people (69%) don’t consider poor oral health to be a guaranteed consequence of old age. Instead, they argue that the good habits that helped keep their mouths healthy when younger are still the ones that help to keep them healthy throughout life.
As such, practice vigilant oral hygiene at home. This includes regular and thorough brushing, using a fluoridated toothpaste and flossing at least once a day, as well as visiting your dentist every six months for a comprehensive oral examination and professional cleaning to prevent the buildup of bacteria and allow for timely repair of worn fillings.
Generally, a good oral care regimen can help to prevent, or even reverse, potentially serious oral disease. And with regular dental checkups, your dentist can detect indicators of various disorders, oral cancers, early diabetes, and adverse drug reactions.
While healthy and functionally independent seniors can maintain their oral care routine with good consistency, the same cannot be said for feeble or functionally dependent seniors. Seniors who need assistance to maintain even basic levels of personal care, whether living at home or in a long-term care facility, are the most vulnerable to oral diseases because they simply cannot perform their own oral care.
Elderly people with dementia, like Alzheimer’s disease, which increases with age, require consistent, effective assistance to help them maintain oral hygiene, even as their intellectual and memory functions diminish. Unfortunately, many of them are resistant to efforts to assist them, yet they regularly forget to brush their teeth, which causes their oral health to deteriorate. And when they need to visit the dentist for routine care or treatment, many are unable to tolerate lengthy procedures, and even fail to understand the need for treatment.
Most people are aware of the importance of good oral hygiene. You start hearing the benefits from an early age, from your parents and dental hygienist. It helps to prevent tooth decay and cavities, gum disease, bad breath, tooth loss, and much more.
Studies also show a link between gum disease and various systemic or chronic diseases. Good oral health can help reduce the risk of:
Good oral hygiene can also reduce the risk of xerostomia (dry mouth). Saliva helps to not only lubricate the mouth, but also promote oral health as it contains bacteria-fighting agents, acid neutralizers, and digestive enzymes. In case of chronic dryness due to medications, you should discuss interventions like changing your medication or using products to manage these symptoms.
You cannot consider yourself healthy without good oral health. As you get older, it becomes even more important to consider oral health and general health as a single entity, rather than separate entities. Oral health is a vital component of health. As such, it should be included in the pursuit for optimal health.
Good oral hygiene is as important in your later years as it was when younger. Adults and seniors who are functionally able to care for their oral health must do so. Older adults with reduced strength, mobility, dexterity, and other functions should get assistance with their daily oral hygiene. These seniors include those suffering from conditions that make self-care difficult, such as tremors, difficulty swallowing, visual impairment, or inability to grip a toothbrush (due to stroke, arthritis, or Parkinson’s disease).
Book your next appointment with Roots on Whyte Dental by calling us at 888-396-4932 or contact us here!