The oral care of the elderly

The mouth and teeth are very important at all ages, not only for an aesthetic issue, but also to maintain good nutrition and avoid complications. Therefore, in the third age, oral care should be as important as other aspects of health. Here are the data you should know to take care of the health of your mouth or that of the beloved one you are attending at this stage of your life.

There is a saying that is very true: the years do not come alone? And certainly, who would not want to stop the passage of time? As we age, the body begins to deteriorate and discomfort is felt. Some have vision problems, others in the ears, in physical resistance or in the health of the heart, among others.

Unfortunately, there is no way to stop this progress, but we can take care of our body to keep it better prepared to receive the effects of the passage of time. There are many things you can do, but naming them all in one article would be impossible. Therefore, here we will dedicate ourselves to something that many times is forgotten: the mouth and the teeth, which not only allow us to feed well but also to communicate and make us understand.

Aging can produce changes in the structure and functioning of the mouth, leading to tooth loss or deterioration of the teeth, accompanied by dry mouth, loss of taste and other disorders.

Among the most common diseases of the mouth are cavities (an infectious disease that causes the loss of tooth structure) and periodontal disease (which affects the support tissues and the protection of the tooth, including the gums). These conditions are responsible, in most cases, for the loss of teeth in older adults.

In addition, adults often have other chronic diseases that can affect the mouth, such as  diabetes , high blood pressure or  hypertension , osteoporosis , liver  changes, kidney failure , visual, motor and / or mental disorders and symptoms that provoke some degree of immunosuppression (that is, they eliminate or diminish the functions of the immune system, that is, the body’s defense system).

To this it is added that, many times, the medicines that the elderly must take to control these or other diseases can also affect the health of the mouth in the long term. Some cause a decrease in salivary flow (the amount of saliva) or xerostomia, for example, as certain analgesics (medicines for pain), antidepressants, antihistamines, antipsychotics, antihypertensive, anticholinergic and derivatives of opioid alkaloids.

There are many things that you should keep in mind, right? It is important that you know them so you can talk to your doctor and your dentist (dentist).

In addition, there are several cares that older adults (or their caregivers) may have to prevent the development of diseases in the mouth or to keep them under control. They include the following:

  • Brush your teeth five times a day (upon waking, after breakfast, lunch, and dinner and before bedtime).
  • Use wide-bristle toothbrushes and soft bristles and fluoride toothpaste.
  • Use mouth rinses with fluoride, as directed by your dentist.
  • Consult your dentist (dentist) at least once a year and ask him if you need any special care, such as using dental floss or interdental brushes.
  • If you have motor or cognitive difficulties, it may be more convenient to use rinses or toothpastes with chlorhexidine, always under the supervision of your dentist.
  • If you suffer from dry mouth (xerostomia), you may need to use products that stimulate salivary secretion, such as sugar-free gum and citrus products. Your dentist may also recommend some medicine, always considering the possible side effects.
  • If you use dentures, it is preferable that you visit the dentist more frequently, at least two or three times a year.
  • If the prostheses are removable, it is convenient that you take them to your dentist to do a cleaning with ultrasound and polishing of the surface every six months and that you keep them daily according to the indications that he or she has given you.
  • If you have lost all your teeth, you should gently clean the gum, at least after each meal, with a soft brush or gauze soaked in an antiseptic substance called chlorhexidine.

Finally, keep in mind that older adults can also suffer from naphtha or other discomfort in the mouth. Therefore, in addition to recommended periodic checks, it is important to consult your dentist if you have pain, if you see spots or a strange lump, if the naphtha are recurrent, if you think you have cavities or have problems to bite, as well as if you have any doubt

Many times dental treatments can be very expensive. If you exceed your possibilities, do not be embarrassed and talk to your dentist to see if it is possible to offer you a more accessible treatment. Or maybe I can refer you to another place where they can do it. In the United States, dental schools can often provide most treatments at a more reasonable cost since students are supervised by teachers.

There is always something that can be done to take care of the health of your mouth. It is better to prevent than to remedy.

Learn to take care of your oral health, so not only avoid unnecessary inconvenience but also you can continue to enjoy your favorite foods and wearing a beautiful smile, at any age.