Oral health for older people

Oral Health for Older People | Image Shutterstock.com

Oral health includes not only natural teeth but also dentures and the soft tissues (including the lips cheeks tongue and roof of the mouth). Regardless of one’s age oral health is an important factor in everyday life; good oral health promotes good general health; more self-confidence and a better quality of life.

The messages for a healthy mouth apply for all ages: Eat well, Drink well, Clean well, Play well, Stay well.

There are some barriers that may prevent us from caring for our oral health in the best way possible; these include:

  • Education
    • There is a lot of research being done into the effects of oral health on the whole body.
    • A lot of bacteria are contained in the mouth and may affect respiratory infections, your capacity to heal and can impact on some diseases.
    • Poor oral health has been linked to cardiovascular/heart disease often increasing the severity of the disease.
    • Recently evidence has indicated a link between poor oral health and the progression of Alzheimer’s and is believed to speed up the progress of the disease.
    • Even patients with dentures can be susceptible to oral disease and in fact have an increased risk of fungal infections. Dental check-ups are still advised to check for any suspicious lesions or infection and for maintenance on the dentures as required.
  • Motivation
    • Everyone has days where they are tired, unmotivated and not feeling like the best version of ourselves. On these days it is still important to include oral health in our daily hygiene routine.
    • Try and find an easy and effective way to keep your teeth in good shape with a regular routine.
  • Dexterity
    • As we age dexterity can become an issue for some people but can be overcome with a few tricks such as; using a tennis ball over the end of a manual toothbrush or switching to an electric toothbrush, the handle will be easier to grip and manoeuvre around the mouth.
    • Use a mouth rinse such as peroxyl, the foaming agent in the mouth rinse is able to lift debris from tissue and between some tricky to reach areas when rinsed vigorously in the mouth for a period of one minute.
  • Access to the right tools
    • It is hard to sometimes determine or access the best tools for cleaning our teeth and dentures, there are some key implements that patients may own to care for their mouth:
      • Toothbrush/Denture brush
      • Toothpaste
      • Denture soaking tablets
      • Floss or interdental brushes
      • Mouth rinse
    • Teeth should be brushed two times a day for at least 2 minutes and optimally dentures should be taken out of the mouth to allow the tissues to recover overnight, where this is not possible taking them out during down time is advised to avoid inflammation and fungal infection.
    • Each of these has a role in oral health and it is important to check with your dental professional as to which combination is best for you.
  • Access to appropriate care
    • It is sometimes difficult to make time for a dental visit or see the necessity for one when there is not a problem. Be proactive and try to see a dentist to get regular checks for any problems as they are beginning and before they cause pain. Fixing these problems at an early stage may also reduce the need for more extensive work on the tooth.
    • There can be difficulty to get transport to and from the dentist. Check for the local community transport to be able to make a time to see the dentist. Reception are able to try and accommodate your preferred time and day – talk to them for any help you need to get to the dentist.