The Importance of Dental Health for Seniors
A bright, healthy smile is essential for people of all ages. However, as we grow older, dental health often requires more attention and money than in years past. As a result, sometimes, oral health in seniors can decline and be the catalyst for more significant medical issues. Why is oral health so important, particularly for seniors?
Oral Health and Dental Complications
For seniors, several oral health conditions can develop, causing a decline in overall health. The most common conditions are:
- Cavities: An increase in cavities across time.
- Gum Disease: The proliferation of periodontal disease which is a chronic infection that can damage gums, bones, and enter the bloodstream.
- Tooth Loss: The loss of some or all teeth from a periodontal disease which is exacerbated by smoking/vaping, tooth grinding, medication side effects such as dry mouth, and medical conditions such as diabetes, hypertension, rheumatoid arthritis, and heart disease.
- Dry Mouth: Chronic dry mouth caused by salivary gland production changes and medication side effects resulting in increased cavities, gum disease, and the possible development of a yeast infection in the mouth called thrush.
- Cancer: Oral cancer of the lips, mouth, or throat.
The Relationship of Poor Dental Health with Systemic Diseases
Proper oral and dental health for seniors can prevent more significant medical complications. Studies have outlined how poor dental health can contribute to the development or exacerbation of systemic medical diseases. But how does oral health directly link to other conditions?
When periodontal disease is present, the impact on gums and teeth may create a portal of entry for bacteria to enter the body. This bacteria then circulates through the entire system, causing a chronic inflammatory reaction. There appears to be a strong link between periodontal disease and the presence of the following medical conditions:
- Coronary Artery Disease and Cardiovascular Disease
- Alzheimer’s Disease and cognitive impairment due to chronic inflammation
- Systemic arthritic conditions such as Rheumatoid Arthritis
Also, dental health conditions can negatively affect seniors’ ability to chew and swallow food. If seniors don’t have an adequate number of properly functioning teeth, they cannot effectively chew their food, notably healthier foods such as fruits and vegetables. Improperly chewed food can result in a choking hazard or a significant decline in food intake resulting in nutritional deficiencies. In addition to difficulty chewing and swallowing food, seniors may experience less desire to eat due to loss of pleasurable taste, hormone changes, or changes in the way the brain communicates the sensation of hunger. All of these factors can reduce intake and predispose a senior to vitamin deficiencies and malnutrition.
Poor dental health can also have an enormous impact on the self-esteem of our seniors. They may socially isolate more often because they are embarrassed by the appearance of their teeth. They also may find communication more difficult because, due to missing teeth, they have more difficulty articulating words clearly when socializing with others.
Visiting Angels of Mobile, Alabama, understands the importance of supporting seniors with effective oral health. As a part of our Personal Care Program, our caregivers provide thorough and compassionate oral and dental hygiene assistance in the privacy of your senior loved one’s home. We are another pair of eyes to make sure that your senior loved one is following a comprehensive oral hygiene routine and to alert family caregivers should a complication arise. We also provide transportation to dental appointments as needed. If you or a senior loved one could benefit from the leading home care agency in Mobile, Alabama, and the surrounding areas, please call us at 251-270-0155 or contact us online today.