Dental Care Tips for the Elderly, and Their Caregivers
As we grow old, our body changes. Just like the rest of our body, our teeth and gums also senesce. About 250 million people suffer from the loss of natural teeth, also called edentulousness, which is about forty percent of the people in Europe, the United States and Japan combined, according to the American Dental Hygienists Association.
The older a person becomes, the more likely we are to lose our teeth. The use of dentures is a good substitute in many cases, however, in most situations the elderly not only lose their teeth, but they lose their ability to care for them, too.
What Makes Elderly Dental Care So Hard?
For the elderly, numerous factors can lead to their inability to maintain oral health. In situations where the individual has dentures, he or she may not follow the proper steps for cleansing dentures, due to limited funds or inexperience.
Sometimes, arthritis makes it hard to use a toothbrush. Others find the use of traditional toothbrushes too hard to use due to dexterity limitations. In other cases, they simply forget to care for their teeth, even if it is something they have done their entire life.
How to Improve the Oral Health of the Elderly
Whether you are an elderly citizen who wants to improve your dental care, or are responsible for caring for someone, there are steps you can take to improve oral health.
Caregivers need to learn the care and special needs of aging teeth. The Ohio Dental Association offers a program called Smiles for Seniors Program. It teaches caregivers how to help in situations where Alzheimer's, Parkinson's and strokes interfere with the ability of these individuals to care for their teeth.
For those with dexterity problems, the use of an electric toothbrush can be helpful. These toothbrushes are excellent at removing plaque and aid in stimulating gums. They are often easier to use, too.
For people who have limited use of their hands due to arthritis or other conditions, try adaptations. For example, attach a bicycle grip to the handle to make it easier to grasp and hold.
If dentures are used, ensure all products necessary for cleaning them are available. The use of any harsh substance, including typical household cleaners, can damage dentures, so it is preferable to use only a denture powder or paste. The elderly often face increasing obstacles about how to maintain their oral health. Learning new techniques and adaptations like these can make a huge difference for maintaining a healthy and confident smile.