Your mouth is the gateway to your body and the condition of your mouth reflects the condition of your health. The first thing people notice is your smile and a great smile is a great first impression. Oral health is important not only for your physical health but also for you socially. Good teeth can improve confidence, make you smile more; avoid awkward situations (bad breath). Conditions common to older age, including hearing loss, cataracts and refractive errors, back and neck pain and osteoarthritis, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, diabetes, depression, and dementia.
Problems with the teeth and mouth can affect the ability to eat and communicate. Diet, nutrition, sleep, psychological status, and social interaction are all affected by impaired oral health.
Brush your teeth at least twice a day.
Electric tooth brushes can be easily held by elders.
Tennis ball brush: excellent tool for people with Parkinson’s or arthritis who have difficulty holding a toothbrush can use the tennis ball modification to improve their grip to assist with brushing.
Brush with soft bristles because they are less irritating.
- Tongue brushing
The tongue holds a lot of bacteria that can cause bad breath or health problems. Tongue is to be cleaned regularly using either your toothbrush or a special tool like a tongue scraper.
The best toothpaste contains fluoride, which helps with preventing cavities and also strengthens teeth. In case of sensitive teeth. the dentist may recommend specially formulated toothpaste (fluoride containing toothpaste). Tooth powder not advisable as it contains lot of abrasives which causes abrasions.
Flossing once a day will help clean in between teeth. If you have trouble flossing there are other great products to help. Floss-forks are affordable and have an easy-to-grasp handle, for reaching back teeth, Comfortable to hold and has replaceable heads. If you have any bridges or crowns it is also important to clean them using specially-designed brushes to get into tight areas.
Many seniors experience dry mouth as a result of prescription medications .Sipping water regularly or rinsing your mouth frequently can help keep the gums healthy. Mouthwashes with no alcohol can help reduce dry mouth. An antibiotic mouthwash may be prescribed by your dentist to help with any infection in your mouth. Many medical conditions are treated with medications that cause dry mouth and dry throat .Dry mouth symptoms are often triggered by diabetes, Sjögren’s Syndrome and other conditions .This can be uncomfortable and often painful, affecting your ability to speak and eat the foods you love.
‘Dryness of mouth and dryness of eyes can be rectified by various techniques of Yoga’
- In Office dental cleanings
To maintain good oral health, you must have professional cleanings by a dental hygienist every six months for good oral health and well- being. Regular visits can also identify and prevent any oral lesions that may become problematic .As seniors live longer and keep their teeth longer, regular dental cleanings will help them maintain their teeth by preventing gingivitis, periodontal complications, loose teeth and tooth loss, bleeding gums , swelled gums.
- Cleaning your dentures
To maintain your dentures they need to be cleaned and disinfected daily .This will keep your mouth healthy and comfortable by reducing bacteria that irritate your gums. Denture acrylic has microscopic holes where bacteria can grow – disinfecting them regularly with Polident will kill bacteria that cause odours and possible health complications. Always store dentures in water to prevent them from drying out and warping. Always have your dentures labelled in case you misplace them. Never clean your dentures using hot water.
Oral health is not separate from general health, but maintaining oral health is definitely difficult and different in old age. Once oral health is maintained it will reflect and help improve the overall wellbeing of the patient.
– Dr Neeraja Turagam
MDS and Dr Sachin Sinha, MDS)