Providing good dental health care for the elderly

According to Oral Health America, having regular dental care saves older adults with chronic diseases $1,000.37 in medical bills each year. If you are a caregiver, it can be a challenge to help your loved one maintain a good oral health routine. Below are some best practices to keep your loved one healthy, happy, and smiling wide.

Dental health reminders for elderly patients

Be sure to schedule regular visits with the dentist for professional cleaning and dental exams, so that he or she can detect any early signs of gum disease and provide appropriate treatment.You can ask your dentist to write out any oral health instructions, especially if your loved one has implants or uses dentures. It is also wise to create a list of all of your loved one’s medications, and take that list with you to each appointment. 

How to assist in brushing and flossing

Care must be taken when flossing and brushing. When brushing and flossing their teeth, brush as you would your own teeth. In order to do this it may be helpful to stand behind the person as they sit. After brushing have your loved one rinse with water or a mouth rinse recommended by their dentist. For an implant anchored denture, use an end-tufted toothbrush, as this type of toothbrush is small and will make brushing around the entire implant easier. At least once a day, floss very carefully. If you notice redness or swelling around the implant be sure to schedule an appointment with the dentist to avoid infection.

How to assist in caring for dentures

Dentures must be cleaned daily and should be soaked overnight in a special denture cleaner, in warm water, or in a mixture of warm water and half vinegar. If the denture has metal clasps, only use warm water for soaking as the metal clasps may be damaged by the vinegar. Look for cracks in the denture on a daily basis. Scrub the denture with a denture brush and soap each evening and do this over a sink filled with water, so that if that denture is dropped it will not break. Do not use abrasive toothpaste or bleach products as these can damage the denture. Always remember to rinse the dentures when you are finished.

How to assist in caring for the mouth

Periodically check the mouth closely. Look for swelling, ask your loved one to raise the tongue and check for red or white patches. Also check for cuts where the lips meet, as this is known as Angular Cheilitis and is frequently seen in elderly people. It may be due to a vitamin B deficiency or fungal infection, and will need to be diagnosed by a dentist. Check the tongue, if it appears smooth, shiny and bald this may be a sign of an iron deficiency or a combination of deficiencies. The renewal of taste buds is slower as we age, so the ability to taste salt declines.  Be aware of how much salt the person under your care is adding to their food as this may have a negative impact on their overall health.

As a caregiver you will have many demands on your time and energy, but taking a few minutes everyday to assist with oral health maintenance will save you time and money in the long run. You will be able to catch any problems before they become major issues.

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