Health challenges are common as people age, including issues that make sleep difficult, along with issues like urinary incontinence and memory loss. Teeth problems are another area to seriously consider.
After all, the teeth play a key role in the food that people can eat and the enjoyment they get from meals. A senior with significant mouth or teeth problems may only be able to eat soft food or may be resistant to eating in general.
Significant Teeth Problems and Solutions
Oral health problems come in a variety of shapes and sizes. In some cases, these may be due to an underlying health condition. They could also be the result of specific behaviors or poor oral health.
Below are some of the most common problems, along with ways to prevent and/or treat them.
Dry mouth is a common side effect of medication and can be frustrating. The simplest solution is to drink more water, which helps promote saliva production. Some seniors might choose to carry around a bottle of water and take regular sips throughout the day. Others may periodically have large glasses of water.
If water isn’t enough, snacking on fruit and vegetables can also help. Many of these have significant water content. Doing so is often more enjoyable than simply drinking water and helps to make sure the senior gets the nutrients that they need as well.
Discoloration occurs because the tooth enamel becomes more worn over time. While the process is natural, some foods can cause greater issues than others. Key examples include foods that have intense colors, such as red wine, blackberries, and raspberries.
Carbonated drinks are also a problem, as they weaken the enamel. This makes drinks like cola and raspberry soda especially problematic as they present both issues at the same time.
Black coffee and tea can also stain the teeth. Tea is somewhat surprising, but it can do so even if the color of the tea is light.
We often think of cavities as being a problem for children and teens. But, seniors are at greater risk.
The techniques for avoiding cavities remain the same for any age group. This includes avoiding sugary food and cleaning teeth regularly.
Seniors will often lose teeth as they age. This is often avoidable by simply practicing good oral care, including brushing and flossing the teeth regularly.
Gum disease is a serious problem for seniors, but many ignore it and don’t seek help. In part, this is because the early symptoms (including bleeding, swelling, and redness) tend to be relatively mild and aren’t especially painful.
However, treating gum disease early is critical and regular dental checkups are a key component in this process. Brushing and flossing also help.
Gum disease is particularly significant because it can cause long-term damage. It is also linked to other conditions, including increased risk of heart disease.
Bad breath is a general issue and can have many different causes. The simplest solutions are the obvious ones, which include brushing the teeth regularly, flossing and also using breath mints. Drinking enough water is also important, as a dry mouth can contribute to bad breath.
If the senior has persistent bad breath, it may be the result of an underlying condition.
For example, using dentures for a long time can lead to inflammation and even infections. This can cause bad breath. Ensuring dentures fit well is an important first step, as is practicing good oral hygiene.
Another example is uncontrolled diabetes, which can lead to a fruity smell on the breath.
If you notice issues like this, it’s important to talk to the senior’s doctor and determine what the underlying cause is. Doing so may bring to light a condition that has been missed up until now.
The best solutions for teeth problems in seniors are what you might expect – simply brushing and flossing often, along with regular dental checkups. Those same practices help prevent issues from occurring in the first place.
Another important practice is simply being aware. Seniors don’t always speak up when something is wrong and they may not even recognize issues themselves. This makes it critical to be proactive and watch out for changes.
For example, if a senior stops being interested in some foods, especially those that are difficult to chew, teeth problems could be a reason.
It’s also worth looking for oral health solutions that are feasible for the senior. One approach is simply having a routine. Caregivers often find that using an electric toothbrush helps as well, simply because work required is less.
As with any other aspect of caregiving, you often need to adjust your approaches to the person you’re caring for. Each person will have different needs and the best approach will vary.