Over one in seven Australians are aged 65 years and over. By 2057 the projection is there will be 8.8 million older people in Australia (from 3.8 million in 2017) and will take up more than 20% of the country’s total population. The number and proportion are increasing because of declining birth rates, improving medical care and increasing lifespans.
This is actually good news if we’re talking about humanity’s welfare. Improving medical care and lifespans sounds good. However, this can also be a challenge if we’re talking about oral care. After all, along with ageing comes declining oral health which can be due to drug interactions and difficulty in regularly applying good oral practices. For instance, many of the elderly acquire disabilities and impairments which make maintaining good oral hygiene more challenging or near impossible. In addition, dry mouth is one potential side effect of several medications (decreased saliva flow that results to less cleansing).
Dental care for the elderly
It’s part of growing old and it seems through each passing year we have to work harder to protect or maintain our health. It’s especially the case in dental care for the elderly because advancing age makes the following more common:
- Tooth loss
- Gum disease
- Root decay
- Darkened teeth and thinning tooth enamel
However, it’s not ageing that is solely to blame because it’s just often a cofactor in declining oral health. As mentioned earlier, disabilities and impairments make good dental hygiene harder to implement which then accelerates gum disease and other dental problems. For example, pain in the hands and fingers can make brushing and flossing really difficult especially for the seniors.
What should you do then? Aside from professional dental care, it’s also important to avoid the things that aggravate common oral problems. It’s always good to stay away from sugary foods and drinks, alcohol and tobacco. These products accelerate gum disease, tooth loss and other issues because of how they affect both the teeth and gums. It’s especially the case with consuming alcoholic drinks because these dehydrate the body and worsen dry mouth conditions.
The next step is to increase fluoridation by choosing a fluoride toothpaste and/or fluoride rinse. Keep in mind that the simple wear and tear through the years of chewing can affect the teeth’s health and integrity. The enamel wears down and can increase the risk for cavities. With increased fluoridation, you give some protection to your teeth in these advanced years.
Earlier we mentioned that dry mouth is one potential side effect of both over-the-counter and prescribed medications. It’s good to ask your doctor if there are alternative medications you can use that won’t induce or worsen the dry mouth condition.
Importance of oral care in later years
Poor dental health and gum disease are associated with an increased risk of developing heart disease. Oral health and heart disease are connected by the spread of bacteria and other germs through the bloodstream. The germs can then cause inflammation and clogged arteries when the microbes attach themselves to the heart and the surrounding linings.
When it comes to ageing physical exercise and proper diet often get the most attention but what about proper dental care? We try to adopt a healthy lifestyle and it shows through our yoga classes, everyday jogging and even participation to sporting activities. However, it’s an entirely different topic (seems oral health is compartmentalised) if we’re talking about teeth and gum health.
It’s the perfect time now to also pay attention to our oral health. After all, poor oral health can lead to infections and painful and costly procedures. It’s best to prevent the problems in the first place than to be forced into visiting the dentist.
For example, if you already see your gums are red and swollen, don’t wait for it to bleed and become worse. It’s crucial to visit the dentist right away so that you can still save the gum tissue and the attachment surrounding the teeth. After all, you might still want to hold on to that attractive smile for many years to come.
When you visit the dentist, it’s important for you to tell him/her the changes you noticed in your teeth, gums and mouth. It also helps to tell your dentist if you feel some discomfort while chewing and swallowing. This way, the doctor can prioritise your concerns and get to the root cause.
Here at Corporate Drive Dental many patients visit us whenever they feel some dental discomfort or when they’re concerned about their oral health. We handle all areas of dentistry and cater to people at every stage of life. Contact us today and let’s set an appointment especially if you’re getting conscious or concerned about your oral health.