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How the Elderly Can Maintain Good Oral Hygiene

By Melissa Hill, 9:00 am on

Oral health plays a significant role in determining overall health. Small, localized problems in the mouth can quickly become widespread, systemic issues that affect the heart and other organs and organ systems. People should practice good oral hygiene at every stage of life. Encourage your senior loved one to take special steps to prevent infection, decay, and other dental issues.

A professional caregiver can help your loved one adopt good dental practices. Seniors can face a variety of challenges as they age, many of which can be mitigated with the help of professional in-home caregivers who provide high-quality elderly care. Oklahoma families trust in Home Care Assistance to help their elderly loved ones age in place safely and comfortably.

1. Avoid Tobacco

All types of tobacco use have been linked to a higher risk of mouth and throat cancers. These products can change the pH of the mouth interior, creating an environment that allows harmful, cavity-causing bacteria to thrive. Some forms of chewing tobacco also contain considerable amounts of sugar, which can be damaging for teeth. Aging adults who smoke cigarettes or cigars or chew tobacco should work with their doctors to establish effective cessation plans.

2. Practice Oil Pulling

As people grow older, hormonal changes can cause sore, swollen, and inflamed gums, especially in aging women during perimenopause and menopause. Seniors with irritated gums can have problems brushing and flossing, which can lead to receding gums, trapped food and plaque, and gum infections. Swirling high-quality coconut or sesame oil around the mouth for just 10 to 20 minutes is a great way to loosen trapped debris, soothe irritated tissues, draw out toxins, and freshen the breath. Always spit the oil out after cleaning the mouth and follow oil pulling with a warm saltwater rinse.

3. Prevent Dry Mouth

Dry mouth is extremely common among aging adults and can cause increased bacterial activity by altering the mouth’s pH. Seniors can talk to their doctors about switching to medications that don’t cause dry mouth as a side effect. Encourage your loved one to drink plenty of water throughout the day to maintain optimal levels of hydration.

4. Adjust Flossing Practices

As dexterity and fine motor control decrease, aging adults and their caregivers should look for alternative ways to effectively clean between the teeth and at the gum line. Dental floss, floss swords, and other similar tools may become too difficult to manage. While oil pulling is a great way to draw out trapped particles, the best replacement for traditional floss is a high-powered water pick. Caregivers can also assist with flossing as needed.

If you are not always available to help your loved one maintain his or her dental hygiene and general health, consider hiring a professional caregiver. Whether your elderly loved one needs part-time assistance with basic household chores or you need a break from your caregiving duties, the Oklahoma respite care experts at Home Care Assistance are here to help. All of our respite care services are backed with a 100% satisfaction guarantee, there are no hidden fees in our contracts, and we never ask our clients to sign long-term contracts.

5. Ask for Fluoride Treatments

Seniors can have their natural teeth protected with in-office fluoride treatments. These topical applications are far better for strengthening and preserving the natural tooth structures than both fluoride toothpastes and mouthwashes. Fluoride treatments effectively seal the teeth so they aren’t exposed to the damaging sugars and acids found in the average diet.

6. Schedule Regular Checkups

All aging adults should schedule routine dental appointments at least twice each year. At this stage of life, teeth have already been subjected to a considerable amount of wear. These checkups give dentists the chance to identify minor oral health issues before they become worse. If addressed early, dental problems like cavities can be cleaned and filled before they require more invasive root canal procedures or dental implants.

Family caregivers should be more vigilant about dental health issues if their loved one has a serious medical condition. For instance, seniors who have age-related conditions such as dementia are at a higher risk for dental problems. Dementia can be challenging for seniors to manage, but they can maintain a higher quality of life with the help of professional dementia care. Oklahoma seniors can benefit greatly from the Cognitive Therapeutics Method (CTM), an activities-based program designed to slow cognitive decline and delay the onset of dementia. CTM is included at no additional charge with any of the in-home care plans provided by Home Care Assistance. Contact a Care Manager at 405-285-4191 for more information on our elder care services and to schedule a no-obligation consultation.