Dental health can affect the body in many ways, for instance gum disease has been linked to heart problems and other serious illnesses. Here are our top tips for good dental care for the elderly.
A trip to the dentist isn’t everyone’s favourite outing, but as most of us know, it is good to try and have regular six monthly check-ups at a dentist. Dental treatment is not usually free, except for those on specific benefits. There are, however, a number of NHS dentists available these days which are less expensive than private practices.
To find an NHS dentist go to: https://www.nhs.uk/Service-Search/Dentists/LocationSearch/3
For an elderly patient with dementia it can be difficult to get them to look after their teeth or to get them to a dentist. They may not report problems with their mouth but it’s still a good idea to try to get them to see a dentist as they may not be able to articulate what is wrong with them.
Gum disease is a major problem for everyone of all ages. A dental hygienist, who should be seen in addition to the dentist, aims to keep teeth and gums healthy and prevent gum disease. They usually recommend the use of electric toothbrushes to ensure a better clean, as well as evening flossing and use of interdental brushes that fit between the teeth every day.
Gingivitis is a more common type of gum disease. Gums become red and swollen just above or below the teeth and they bleed when teeth are cleaned. It’s important to put a stop to gingivitis as it can lead to Periodontal disease which means that gums recede, bone wears away and teeth become loose and can fall out.
Find out more at the British Dental Health Foundation website: https://www.dentalhealth.org
The pain of toothache
Anyone who’s ever had toothache will know that it is one of the worst pains to be endured. The most important thing is to get to the dentist as soon as possible as there may be reasons for the toothache that can be dealt with quickly. These include:
- Abscesses – may require antibiotics or having a tooth removed.
- Nerve damage – may require root canal work which is quite lengthy and uncomfortable.
Painkillers can help to ease the pain of toothache. An old-fashioned remedy is oil of cloves but it has to be used carefully as it can sting the gum badly. Try not to encourage swigging alcohol to get rid of the pain!
Many elderly people lost their teeth a long time ago, but even so it’s important to have regular dental appointments to check that they still fit properly. Also, the dentist can advise on other issues such as gum problems, sore mouth or ulcers. Dentists advise that dentures are not worn overnight and that they are cleaned properly every night – keeping teeth in a jar by the bed is not just a joke!
Some people with dentures (or without) develop a dry mouth, due to their age or because of the drugs that they are taking. As people get older the amount of saliva produced in the mouth diminishes. This can also be due to the drugs they are taking.
- Regular drinks of water can help to lubricate the mouth.
- Unsweetened pineapple chunks or pineapple juice help to relieve a coated tongue, provided the mouth is not too sore.
- Sucking a sugar-free peppermint or peppermint tablet is a good way to encourage saliva into the mouth.