As more adult children move into a time of caring for their aging parents, they will need to consider many things. Advanced directives will smooth the way. A Durable Power of Attorney facilitates financial decisions, a Living Will makes end-of-life care preferences clear, and a health care proxy provides direction in looking after loved ones.
Whether adult children choose to use an adult care facility, to use home health care workers, or to take on the role of family caregiver, dental care for seniors must be a priority. Good oral health starts at home and is a cornerstone supporting overall health and wellbeing. “You are not healthy without good oral health,” said former Surgeon General C. Everett Koop, and I couldn’t agree more.
How does poor oral health affect an older person’s general health?
10 Dental Problems that Seniors Face
- Pain from broken or decayed teeth and mouth sores
- Difficulty speaking
- Problems coordinating chewing and swallowing
- Oral bacteria-linked pneumonia
- Reduced self-esteem and function from tooth loss and decay secondary to reduced saliva
- Gum disease and Bad breath
- Surgical complications from oral infection
- Oral complications due to medications, such as dry mouth
- Economic burden from worsening dental issues
- Oral cancer, leading to suffering, surgery and possibly death
In 2010, there were 40.3 million people 65 and older in the United States. By 2050, those 65 and up will have reached 88.5 million – or 20 percent of the population. People 85 and older are the fastest growing group in America. The U.S. Census Bureau statistics show that this over 85 population will double by 2035 to 11.5 million.
To maximize the health of these individuals, caregivers must ensure that brushing and flossing occur daily. Plaque can build up quickly on seniors’ teeth, so aim for at least two brushings with fluoride toothpaste and one session of flossing. An electric brush and floss picks are helpful options. Have your senior use a fluoride mouthwash provide extra cavity protection they need due to dry mouths, and schedule a dental cleaning and oral exam every three to six months. Of course many seniors have already experienced tooth loss, so implants and dentures must be maintained. Ill-fitting dentures or partial dentures lead to ulcers, bad breath, dental decay, pain, infection and problems with eating and speaking.
Cosmetic concerns may lower your loved one’s self-esteem. Teeth darken. Wear and tear on teeth may cause the profile to collapse and emphasize wrinkles. Dry mouth, called xerostomia, is caused by radiation, chemotherapy, Sjogren’s disease, smoking, nerve damage, alcohol and especially medications. Xerostomia is uncomfortable and causes digestive challenges, depression, mouth sores and most importantly a dramatic increase in decay, especially root decay which is difficult to treat and control. To manage root decay, many of our elderly patients are prescribed a high fluoride toothpaste such as Prevident or Fluoridex which contains about 5 times the fluoride levels of over the counter toothpaste.
If you or a senior citizen you know is exhibiting any of these problems or if you have questions or need help caring for the senior in your family, please schedule an appointment at our Southfield dental office. We work hard to improve patients’ health and wellbeing, and we do it with gentleness and comfort, always mindful to preserve our patients’ dignity. Call your Southfield Dentist at 248-356-8790.
Well, that’s all for today. Until next time,
Dr. Mark W. Langberg, DDS, MAGD
26206 West 12 Mile Road, Suite 303
Southfield, MI 48034