Maintain a Healthy Mouth
Too often, seniors and their caregivers neglect dental care in favor of attending to more pressing physical and emotional challenges. However, doing so is not only unhealthy, it is also dangerous. Poor oral hygiene can lead to cavities; severe pain; and serious health complications, including pneumonia.
According to a study by Ralph Rosenblum Jr., DDS, MHA, published in The Journal of the American Dental Association, good oral hygiene can reduce the incidence of pneumonia and respiratory tract infections in elderly nursing home residents or hospital patients. These dangerous infections are linked to poor oral health because as bacteria builds up in the mouth, it can easily be inhaled into the lungs.
In the last several decades, oral health has improved dramatically—with more seniors retaining their natural teeth thanks to advances in dental care. However, for severely ill patients, especially those with dementia or other cognitive disabilities, oral hygiene can be a serious challenge. Patients may resist receiving oral care from a caregiver because they are uncomfortable with the procedure or because they are confused by what is happening. Too often, caregivers in nursing homes or family caregivers do not know how to safely and effectively deliver dental care to elderly patients.
Fortunately, there are dentists available to help elderly patients and their loved ones make dental hygiene a priority. Mobile dental services provide full-service dental care in local assisted living communities, nursing and rehabilitation centers, and private homes. These professional dentists and hygienists can provide preventative care and treat existing dental problems.
Dentists will carefully evaluate elderly patients, looking for specific problems and warning signs. For instance, they will check for cavities, which can become more prevalent as individuals age. After years of being cavity free, many seniors begin to get cavities again, often as a result of chronic dry mouth. Beyond treating cavities, dentists are also experts in gum disease, mouth cancer and denture care.
For more information and helpful tips, please visit mouthhealthy.org.
Published: April 2014
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