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Keeping An Elderly Parent’s Teeth Healthy
October 14, 2018
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When you were a child, your parents probably made sure you were brushing your teeth properly so you would have a lifetime of healthy dental checkups. Now, as your parent’s age, it may be up to you to repay the favor by helping them take great care of their teeth as they age. Whether this person is a family member or a close friend, there is a lot you can do to help when another individual requires assistance with oral hygiene care.

Potential Dental Issues

Poor oral hygiene as you age can affect several illnesses or diseases, particularly in seniors. Medical conditions can make it even harder for older patients to take proper care of their teeth which can create a risk of serious dental problems. Older adults are often taking many medications that have dry mouth as a side effect, or they have a medical condition that has dry mouth as a symptom. Here are just a few ways poor oral hygiene can affect your loved one’s health.

Pneumonia

Poor oral health may be a risk factor in a person developing pneumonia. Pneumonia is an infection that causes one or both lungs to become inflamed, leading to symptoms such as a cough with mucus, an increase in phlegm, fever, chills, and difficulty breathing. Older adults over the age of 65 are most susceptible to developing pneumonia. Maintaining good oral hygiene can help prevent bacteria found in the mouth and throat from being carried into the lungs from breathing.

Diabetes

Patients with diabetes are at a higher risk of developing severe gum disease. Advanced cases can lead to pain, abscess, and even tooth loss. You can help someone in combating gum disease by promoting good dental hygiene at home, and by scheduling regular visits with their dental professional. Ask a doctor for tips on keeping diabetes under control through diet and following a diabetes management plan.

Heart Disease

Bacteria in the mouth can lead to cardiovascular issues. The link between poor oral health and heart disease is still considered circumstantial, but there is a direct link between inflammation and it causing arteries to harden. Inflammation puts an individual at a higher risk for a heart attack or stroke. Inflamed gums are a sign of gum disease, which causes redness and pain in the gums, leading to infection.

Oral Cancer

Oral cancer is among the most common and fastest growing types of cancer affecting Americans today. The practice of good oral hygiene and regular visits to a dental health professional can help patients prevent oral cancer from going undetected.

 

Oral Hygiene Tips For Caregivers

It may feel a bit strange to care for another person’s teeth at first, so begin slowly until you find the right balance. If the person does not want your help, respect their wishes. Ask your dentist for any advice they may have on oral hygiene tips for caregivers.

The basics of caring for another person’s oral hygiene is as fundamental as caring for your teeth.

  • Brush their teeth twice a day
  • Make sure they floss
  • Monitor their diet

Caring For Natural Teeth

  1. Stand behind the person to brush and floss their teeth to make the process feel more natural.
  2. Let the person sit in front of the sink and encourage them to be involved in the process.
  3. Make sure you use a soft bristled toothbrush. Many caregivers find that an electric toothbrush is more convenient when it comes to brushing someone else’s teeth.
  4. Ask the person to tell you if you are brushing with too much pressure.
  5. Have the person rinse with warm water when you are finished.

Complete or Partial Dentures

  1. Let the person tell or show you how to take the complete dentures or partial dentures out.
  2. Both types of dentures must be cleaned daily.
  3. Look for any cracks in the denture. If you notice any, take the denture to the dentist for repair.
  4. Fill a clean sink with water.
  5. Scrub the denture with a denture brush and cleaning solution.
  6. Rinse with water when you are finished cleaning.
  7. Soak dentures overnight. Dentures can be soaked in a special cleaner that is specifically designed for dentures, in warm water, or in a mix of warm water and vinegar.

*If the denture has metal clasps, use warm water only for soaking.

 

Scheduling Regular Dental Appointments

Keeping on top of your parent’s dental care is challenging. Caregivers don’t often rank dental hygiene as a top concern, but their quality of life depends on good dental health. Schedule routine dental cleanings and exams every six months to ensure their mouth is being adequately cared for.

For more information on good oral hygiene practices for caregivers, ask Hinsdale Dentistry for personalized tips at a consultation appointment.

 

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