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How to Take Care of the Oral Health of the Elderly

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Proper oral hygiene can prevent diseases such as cavities, bad breath, dry mouth, among others. Consider these tips for keeping your senior's teeth and gums healthy.

Having good oral care and hygiene habits is essential during all stages of life so that the teeth are always in optimal condition. However, at old age, special actions and more attention are required to maintain healthy teeth and gums.

According to endodontist Roberto José Sosa, just as the entire body undergoes wear and tear over the years, the same happens with the teeth.

He says, “As you get older, you are more prone to tooth decay or other oral diseases such as gingivitis, which manifests itself with inflamed and bleeding gums; and periodontitis, which consists of inflammation and affects the bony support of the teeth.”

Xerostomia is also common in the elderly since this is a systemic condition in which there is a decrease in saliva production due to some diseases and the use of some medications.

Although the best way to guarantee oral health is through prevention by having hygiene habits, such as brushing your teeth three times a day and visiting the dentist every six months, there are some tips that are useful to maintain strong teeth and healthy gums.

Brushing and flossing

Brushing your teeth is vital from infancy to old age, so it is important that you continue the habit of oral hygiene by brushing three times a day with toothpaste that contains fluoride. “Fluoride brushing is important because the consumption of various medications can decrease the flow of saliva, which increases the risk of tooth decay. It also prevents decalcification that prevents the deterioration of the pieces”, explains dentist Carlos Quiñónez.

It is recommended that the toothbrush be of soft bristles, to avoid discomfort. In addition, it should be changed every three months or sooner, when you begin to notice its wear. Doctor Sosa believes that if the elderly adult has motor difficulties, he can consult his dentist for the use of electric toothbrushes.

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Quiñonez declares that some people, at a certain age, do not accept the toothbrush because it causes them discomfort. That is why it is recommended that the caregiver chooses to clean the teeth and gums with a gauze with bicarbonate water or chamomile water, to remove the remains of food.

Denture care

When the elderly have full or partial dentures it is also important to clean them every day, because bacteria adhere in the same way. Quiñonez recommends that you use the cleaning products that the dentist recommends, you cannot choose those used for natural teeth because some turn out to be very abrasive and can damage it.

Sosa recommends not wearing the prosthesis at night, to avoid inflammation of the oral tissues. "It is also advisable that, at least once a week, when leaving the prosthesis in water, use some type of antiseptic or oral rinse to avoid bacteria and wear of the material," he argues.

Visit the dentist regularly

Having a check-up with the dentist every six months is important because, as you age, the nerves in your teeth become smaller and less sensitive, so sometimes the pain caused by cavities or other oral diseases is not felt. If you do not visit the doctor constantly when you are diagnosed with a condition in the mouth it could be serious and lose a part.

Quiñonez advises that when you visit the dentist for the first time or change your doctor, indicate the types of medications you consume, the conditions you suffer from, and whether you have natural teeth or dental prostheses.

Sosa, for his part, explains that older adults, when they visit the doctor every six months, should schedule a periodontal check-up (treatment of gums and supporting tissues of the teeth) to remove tartar. Also, a prophylaxis, which consists of cleaning the teeth to prevent irritating factors, when in contact with the teeth, causes some gum disease, such as gingivitis.

Medical check-ups

Since diseases such as diabetes or hypertension can cause problems in oral health, it is recommended that you also have constant check-ups with your internist or gerontologist to control these conditions. Someone with glucose problems suffers from slower healing, so oral treatments such as cleaning must be more careful so that their healing is not complicated.

Remember that the health of the whole body is connected, so having the organism healthy, so will your mouth.

No Smoking

If the elderly adult consumes tobacco, it is recommended that they stop, because, in addition to causing chronic diseases such as cancer, it also aggravates gum problems, cavities, and tooth loss. Tobacco, due to nicotine, increases the production of tartar on the teeth. In addition, it does not allow the results of oral cleaning to be effective and delays the healing of dental processes.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.

© 2021 Loretta Osakwe Awosika

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