dental care in elderly

Gum disease, tooth and root decay, sensitive teeth, diabetes and dry mouth are just some of the conditions that emphasise the importance of oral health in older adults.  Aged care facilities are required to have an individualised medical plan for each resident and it is the NZ Dental Association’s view the same should occur with respect to them having an oral health care plan for each resident and that all staff are trained to provide the basic daily assistance with oral hygiene. All residents should undergo an oral health assessment on arrival to a care facility and then an oral care plan should be personalised according to the status of their oral health.

The oral health of older people can be greatly assisted by the correct regular oral hygiene and oral health checks. Making sure that menus offer healthy foods with particular attention to minimising sugar consumption is extremely important. The combination of no one assisting the elderly resident, who often has limited dexterity, with their toothbrushing, affects the biggest change in residents oral health. The side effects of many medications that decrease protective saliva and sugar-heavy diets, is disastrous and needs to be addressed with alternatives.

Common diseases in older people include gum disease, tooth and root decay, sensitive teeth and dry mouth, most can be prevented or mitigated by the following practices:

  • Twice daily brushing of teeth with fluoride toothpaste and a soft-bristle brush (avoid vigorous brushing)
  • Twice daily removal and cleaning of dentures with a mild soap
  • Regular cleaning in between the teeth with floss or an interdental brush
  • Salt and bicarbonate (baking soda) is a safe and effective rinse that can be used to
    remove mucus or debris that often accumulates.
  • Reduced consumption of sugary drinks and foods and replaced with ‘tooth safe’ options
  • Regular professional check-ups and cleaning

For more information about common oral health issues relating to older people, click here.

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