The number of mature adults in the US is expected to reach 98 million or 24% of the population by 2060. Unfortunately, aging and dental health are correlated with tooth decay & loss, gum disease, mouth cancer, and chronic diseases according to the CDC. Preventive care with the help of dental aids and devices can help avoid many of these conditions, maintain good oral health, and improve end of life quality among the elderly.
Good Oral Health Practices and Dental Devices
Oral habits play a critical role in attaining good dental health. Brushing your teeth regularly prevents dental caries, cavities, and plaque from forming that affect oral health. Switching from a manual to an electric toothbrush can improve brushing. Studies show that electric toothbrushes do a better job of cleaning teeth and reaching difficult areas than manual ones. After 3 months of use, there was a 21% reduction in plaque based on a study by Jacoob, et al. The authors concluded that powered toothbrushes are effective in reducing plaque and gingivitis in the short and long term over manual toothbrushes. For seniors affected by Alzheimer’s, there are 3-sided toothbrushes that can help caregivers brush the teeth of a patient effectively.
In addition to brushing teeth at least twice a day, dental floss and pickers ensure that food debris does not remain in between teeth that can damage the gums, cause irritation and even lead to bad breath. Flossing may become a challenge for the old, but there are viable alternatives. Interdental brushes can fit easily between your teeth and are easy to manipulate as floss picks that have handles for a better grip.
If you still find it difficult to use these dental aids, you can opt for water flossers that spray a jet stream in between the teeth to dislodge trapped food particles while those with fixed bridges can use floss threaders to clean under. Dentures must also be cleaned properly in solutions or with cleansers.
Maintaining Oral Health
Besides regular brushing and assistive devices, dental visits are vital for preventive care among seniors. Sadly, socio-demographic factors including retirement income and health insurance, illnesses, mobility and accessibility play a role in the utilization of dental services. Dentists can recommend ways to look after aging teeth, spot problems and prescribe treatment.
As you grow older, the bones become brittle and the teeth become fragile. Attrition or normal tear & wear due to brushing, chewing and grinding increases your chances of developing cavities. To strengthen teeth, fluoridated toothpaste or fluoride tablets are advised. There is strong evidence linking daily use of fluoride toothpaste with prevention of caries according to Topping & Assam in their 2-year study.
Moreover, an antibacterial mouthwash also reduces the buildup of plaque in the mouth. Bahlouli et al concluded that chlorhexidine mouthwashes with or without alcohol are effective in preventing bacterial activity or eliminating oral microbes.
Another dental aid that can help seniors maintain good oral health are sugar-free gums and lozenges that enhance the production of saliva. Dry mouths are common side effects of medications for diabetes, high blood pressure, depression, or elevated cholesterol among others. It is one of the major causes of cavities.
Preventive oral care among the geriatric population can be enhanced with simple dental aids and devices in addition to regular visits to the dentists and brushing. Averting and treating mouth & dental problems improve the wellbeing and quality of life of seniors.
Guest Post by Writing Jackie