Good oral hygiene is essential for everyone despite age. Unfortunately, people at extreme ages are vulnerable to poor dental hygiene. The elderly have several modifiable and non-modifiable factors that affect their oral hygiene. Here is a closer look at the unique challenges that affect oral health among the elderly.
Table of Contents
Weak Gum Tissue
As we age, the tissue around our gums loses its integrity. As a result, the risk of gum disease increases. Furthermore, teeth lose their stability, leading to tooth loss.
The erosion of bones is an inevitable reality for most people in old age. It’s caused by progressive wear and tear that occurs from continuous use. Although osteoporosis is common around joints, teeth are also vulnerable to erosion. As we age, the enamel thins out, increasing the risk of tooth decay and loss.
Weak Immune System
The elderly have a weak immune system. This is a natural effect of aging, but it has far-reaching consequences on oral health. A weak immune system increases the risk of gingivitis and tooth decay.
Certain comorbidities have a direct negative effect on oral health. For example, diabetes weakens dental vascularisation and immunity. Consequently, bacterial growth increases, leading to tooth decay and gum inflammation.
Unfortunately, the challenges that affect oral health among the elderly are not met with equal urgency. Here is what you need to do.
Brush and Floss
Whether you are young or old, brushing and flossing remain the mainstay of dental hygiene practices. As you age, it’s important to brush your teeth religiously. Brush at least twice daily after meals and use the appropriate toothpaste. Furthermore, your toothbrush ought to have strong bristles with good reach.
Flossing does what your toothbrush can’t. Dental floss is designed to reach the crevices of your teeth and clean out debris. It’s not a replacement for brushing but an adjunct. Both practices minimise the risk of tooth decay and gum diseases.
Antimicrobial mouthwash reduces the bacterial load in the oral cavity and improves oral hygiene. The solution reduces the risk of tooth decay and gingivitis. Nonetheless, it’s imperative to consult your dentists for the best recommendations since there are several mouthwash solutions on the market.
Limit Sugar and Acidic Foods
Sugar increases the risk of dental decay and gingivitis. It serves as a substrate for bacteria and interferes with the local immunity in the oral cavity. Acidic foods also erode the enamel and leave teeth vulnerable to infections. Since the elderly have weak teeth, sugar and acidic foods are likely to result in grave complications.
Quit Smoking and Limit Alcohol Intake
Smoking has poor effects on oral hygiene. It compromises oral health and leaves all tissues vulnerable to infections and inflammation. Furthermore, smoking causes direct chemical and thermal damage to gums and teeth. It’s also linked to oral and throat cancers. Excessive alcohol intake is bad for your teeth, too. It reduces immunity in your mouth and promotes bacterial growth.
Manage Dry Mouth
A dry mouth increases the risk of gingivitis and dental caries. Unfortunately, it’s a common problem among the elderly. An easy solution to the problem is staying hydrated. Caffeine and alcohol can make dry mouth worse. Therefore, it’s prudent to limit intake or completely avoid their consumption.
Dentists recommend scheduling a check-up every six months. The frequency can vary depending on individual circumstances. If you have dentures or any oral appliance, your visits may be more frequent. Furthermore, the older you get, the more frequently you ought to visit your dentist.
The demands for good oral health among the elderly are unique. Nonetheless, they are simple to meet. Don’t wait until it’s too late to start caring for your teeth.