While many people are rightly concerned about their overall health when they get older, one thing seems to be forgotten. And that is dental health.
As we age, our gums become very susceptible to disease. When this happens, it affects our teeth, ability to eat properly, and then it can lead to other serious health problems. Keeping up on dental health becomes crucial once the gums start becoming unhealthy.
There needs to be a focus on keeping teeth and gums healthy, beyond just maintaining good oral hygiene. Sure, bad breath is a sign that you aren’t practicing good oral hygiene, but it can lead to far more serious effects.
In this article, we will go over several reasons your dental health is so crucial when you are a senior.
1 – Trouble eating
Gum disease can make it very painful to eat. As a result, seniors with gingivitis and other conditions don’t get the nutrients they need. When eating becomes a struggle, then eating and drinking aids are necessary to make sure that they are getting the proper diet.
When gum disease has already taken hold, then it has to be dealt with surgically. Either a gingivectomy is necessary to get the gums back to their healthy status. Using a scalpel or laser gingivectomy are the two options.
What’s the Difference Between Scalpel and Laser Gingivectomy? Using a scalpel is the traditional way to tighten up the gums and is usually available at many dental practices. Using a laser is more precise and less susceptible to infections, which is important for seniors.
2 – Root decay
With loose gums comes the possibility of teeth getting rotten at the roots. The gums need to be healthy and firm to keep bacteria from reaching the roots of the teeth.
Root decay can be painful but also very dangerous. This decay can go undetected and allow bacteria to build up and then pass from the gums into other parts of the body.
With a weakened immune system as many seniors have an infection that can wreak havoc on many parts of the body besides just the mouth. Once the bacteria enters the bloodstream, it will inevitably spread around and attack weak points in the system.
3 – Diabetes
Periodontitis is a gum disease that can go unchecked and even cause diabetes. It’s a condition that inhibits the production of insulin in the body. This lack of insulin will raise blood sugar levels and can end up leading to diabetes.
Even those with an otherwise healthy diet can find themselves with diabetes because of this.
4 – Heart disease
People with periodontal disease are almost twice as likely to have heart disease as opposed to somebody with healthy gums and teeth. The problem, again, is that when you have gum disease or tooth decay, there is a lot of bacteria in your mouth that can easily get into the bloodstream.
Your gums are very thin, with capillaries close to the surface. And roots of the teeth are inside the gums giving bacteria direct access to the blood. This makes it easy to spread into the blood and cause an infection that can spread to your heart.
The risk of stroke is highly elevated due to the increase in bacteria and infection in the blood. In fact, to evaluate the risk of stroke, medical professionals will use poor oral health as a big factor. It is used in conjunction with high cholesterol as being an indicator that heart disease is more likely to happen.
5 – Pneumonia
Pneumonia is serious at any age but is potentially dire when a senior gets it. Their weakened immune system is not able to handle the strength of the infection.
Because it is usually bacterial, and there is a lot of bacteria in the mouth, it can be caught easily by simply breathing. Just a few droplets of bacteria can go directly into the lungs while breathing and begin to multiply in the wet conditions. If not caught early, this chest infection can become full-blown pneumonia.
How to help seniors with oral hygiene
Things like arthritis can make brushing and flossing teeth painful so many times it is not done properly. Memory loss also contributes to seniors not taking care of their teeth as they may simply forget.
If your loved one has issues with taking care of themselves, then hiring a caretaker to go over the house for a few hours per day may be the answer. They can help with things like brushing teeth and making sure it is done properly if you are not able to go yourself.