Dental Care For Seniors

With a population that has more seniors, than in previous generations it is important that dental care be included in their health regimes. The most obvious concern is regular care so that they can prevent or reduce many major concerns. Many seniors have had the advantage of dental insurance for several decades and one may assume that most have taken advantage of the care they were offered. But, there are some conditions that should not be taken for granted and should be avoided.

One aspect of continuing dental care is the role of home care for seniors. A routine that was hopefully applied when they were young, should be maintained. Brushing, flossing and perhaps increased use of moistening mouth rinses and moisturizing tooth pastes are options to consider. The problem of a dry mouth is something that may come with age; but, many medications can cause nocturnal dry mouth as well. A dry mouth may lead to increased decay, as the neutralizing effect of saliva can be reduced or eliminated if a patient has an unusually dry mouth. A pharmacist or your dental office can advise you on what brands to use. Some are available in both toothpaste and rinse form. They offer a pleasant supplement to reduced saliva flow and they can go a long way to avoid and prevent unnecessary cavities.

Whether a senior is at home or in a care facility special attention should be paid to a good before bed routine. It has been reported that poor oral hygiene, in some seniors, can result in the harboring of pneumococcal bacteria which can, of course, lead to pneumonia. It is especially important for care givers to be aware of this as it is often reported that following a serious fall many seniors have developed pneumonia. It is felt that this could be secondary to a lack of ability for them to care for their oral needs.

Many seniors have lost teeth and it is a positive aspect to seek possible replacement teeth to allow for better function and in many cases to avoid the embarrassment of the awkward appearance of missing teeth. In extreme cases complete dentures may be the only advisable treatment. A complete upper denture is actually very comfortable and can offer good function. A lower denture is less positive in that it covers a smaller ridge and mobility is a problem. In some cases people can obtain implants to help stabilize a lower denture.

A partial denture is usually a light weight metal frame that can contain the missing teeth. They are used in conjunction with natural teeth. They are comfortable, functional and in most cases aesthetic looking in appearance. Some patients can do well with crowns or bridges to have a more stable option. As well dental implants are a possibility, they are more costly but many seniors like the option as they have, in many cases, worked long and hard and feel they deserve the best they can obtain.

So seniors have two possible concerns, oral health for tooth maintenance, and good oral health to prevent some of the many bacterial side effects poor oral hygiene can impose. Some side effects can include diabetic complications, including the impeded uptake of insulin. As well poor oral hygiene can result in a bacterial invasion that can cause a multiplicity of general health problems including cardiac and circulatory problems. Some recent reports have spoken of oral bacteria being found in stroke sites.

Dr Michael Pilon