Whether your aging loved one is being cared for in a medical facility, or at home by family, it’s important to help them practice good oral care. According to the American Dental Association, decreased ability to engage in oral self-care puts people at risk for tooth decay, gum disease and oral infection.
“Oral care is important at every stage of life,” said Dr. Gary Linker, President of the Connecticut State Dental Association. “For patients at any age we recommend brushing and flossing daily, and healthy food and drink. However, there are other considerations when providing dental care to older adults, like denture care and physical ability level.”
The appropriate level of care is best determined by considering the ability of the individual receiving care. Some may be able to brush and floss their teeth, but need a simple reminder to do so. Others might need a helping hand to brush and floss properly.
“Keeping your loved one’s mouth healthy and clean can add to their comfort level, too,” said Dr. Linker. “Practicing good oral care can prevent sensitivity and pain in teeth. An added benefit of a bright, clean smile is a boost for self-esteem.”
“Regular dental check-ups are important at all ages, but seem to fall to the wayside when there are so many other health concerns that come with age. Dentures, for example, are an added layer of oral care that need to be taken care of nearly as much as teeth,” said Linker.
Dentures should be rinsed after ever meal, and brushed daily with denture cleaner. At night, dentures should be taken out and stored in water.
As Connecticut’s aging population grows, it’s important to pay attention to oral care for elders. According to data from the Connecticut Data Collaborative and the Connecticut Department of Aging, more than one third of Connecticut’s population is over the age of 50, and that proportion is expected to grow over the next 20 years.
Your dentist can recommend the best oral care routine for the person you care for, and may be able to help with any challenges you face. “No matter how it’s being provided, it’s important that your loved one receives the oral care they need. Regular visits to the dentist will help maintain a healthy, safe mouth as people age,” added Dr. Linker.
The American Dental Association provides resources for dental health for adults over 60. Visit here to learn more: www.mouthhealthy.org/en/adults-over-60.