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Oral Health for Seniors
As summer beckons, it’s a good time to review the latest tips and information about good oral health for seniors. You may question whether you are doing everything you can to care for your smile properly. As local health department and CDC guidelines for dining out become less restricted, the renewed socializing may remind you of how much you depend on your oral-facial system to smile, speak, and chew comfortably.
Unfortunately, many adults take oral health for granted or neglect it until pain, irritation, or a visit to the dentist alerts them to improve dental hygiene. At Grand Oaks, through coordination of our Wellness Office, residents continue to visit their doctors and dentists to ensure good oral health.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, you may have paused professional dental cleanings and elective procedures since dental offices opened only for emergencies. Quarantines that forced seniors to remain secluded often led to changes in appetite, more snacking, less access to fresh produce, and worse nutrition. These circumstances also contributed to declining oral health conditions such as cavities (tooth decay), gum (periodontal) disease, and eventually loose teeth and bone loss.
Proper nutrition and eating directly translate into better oral health. Living in an assisted living facility like Grand Oaks, where well-balanced nutritional meals are served three times daily in the dining room or to the residents’ rooms, helps seniors continue to eat healthy meals. Eating can become a matter of simply selecting from various vibrant choices on a room-service menu instead of worrying about shopping, cooking, and cleanup!
Even before the pandemic restrictions, seniors may have faced several challenges to taking proper care of their teeth and gums and receiving regular oral healthcare. It also may be time to consider whether having the support of caregivers and staff at an assisted living facility like Grand Oaks may be more appropriate for yourself or a loved one.
As a caregiver, here are some tips to keep in mind when caring for a senior loved one:
- Schedule and reschedule regular dental appointments as needed.
- Use technologies that allow for remote patient monitoring (RPM) by healthcare providers.
- Facilitate virtual appointments such as telehealth or teledentistry.
- Help your loved one on the phone with providers and billing departments. Some seniors may feel frustration due to difficulty hearing, following prompts, understanding their options, or extended hold times.
- Remember their appointments, mark them on a calendar, and make sure they have transportation. When a senior has a disease such as cancer that may require multiple visits over a day or week, a skilled caregiver can ease the emotional burden by coordinating everything scheduled on the day of office visits or procedures.
- Work with healthcare providers in patient education. A new diagnosis can often be overwhelming for a senior to process, but having a trusted caregiver at the appointment can help yourself or a loved one understand the recent news and decide on the best course of treatment.
Some seniors may no longer be able to care for their oral health and need help with tooth brushing and flossing. These complications become worse with conditions such as arthritis or dementia. Many seniors and their families choose assisted living facilities like Grand Oaks because of their skilled and experienced care managers and staff. They can assist residents throughout the day on self-care tasks such as bathing, toileting, dressing, eating, exercise, grooming, and tooth brushing and flossing.
Take Care of Your Smile and Optimize Your Oral Health
Here are some helpful tips for better oral health for seniors:
- Brush your teeth twice a day with fluoride toothpaste, and floss at least once a day, preferably after meals.
- Visit your dentist routinely – at least once or twice a year or more frequently if your condition, such as gingivitis, advanced periodontal disease, or side effects from cancer treatments, warrants more frequent professional cleanings.
- Eat a well-balanced diet, and limit sugary drinks.
- Keep hydrated because dry mouth – often worsened by medications that many seniors require – can lead to cavities, problems with dentures fitting properly, and eventually difficulty chewing and speaking.
- Make sure your dentures and all dental appliances are cleaned and fit properly. Have an orthodontist check your dental appliances and see your provider if you experience bleeding gums, irritations, jaw pain, or new tooth sensitivity.
- Consider an electric toothbrush to help improve your brushing.
- Quit smoking and refrain from all tobacco products. These not only stain your teeth but dramatically increase your chances of developing oral cancers.