Dental care for the elderly

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From a young age we are taught to look after our teeth properly, but as we get older, certain conditions can develop that we need to keep on top of.

As a result of taking medication many elderly people can experience ‘dry mouth’ – more than 400 commonly used medications can contribute to dry mouth. This condition can increase the risk of disease as saliva is needed to help kill bacteria and rebuild enamel.

All those years of chewing food and grinding teeth can really take its toll and general wear and tear can occur. Gums can also recede, leading to an increased risk of decay.

To help maintain a healthy mouth as you or a loved-one gets older, you should switch to a fluoride toothpaste or include a fluoride rinse into your daily routine.

You could also start using an antibacterial mouthwash to help reduce the build-up of plaque.

If possible, ask a doctor if your medication can be substituted for one that doesn’t produce dry mouth. If this is not possible, up your daily water intake and chew a sugar free gum.

You should avoid alcohol as this tends to dehydrate your body, which is not helpful if you suffer from dry mouth. You should also avoid tobacco as it has been linked to an increased risk of mouth and throat cancer, heart disease and many other serious conditions.

It’s important for the elderly to keep up with regular dental check-ups, so you may need to remind them to do so or accompany them on an appointment.

It can be difficult for an elderly person with any stage of dementia to look after their teeth or understand the need to regularly visit a dentist. They may not be able articulate any problems they might have, so keeping on top of and attending regular check-ups is important – these may need to be organised by yourself or a carer.