The Importance Of Oral Hygiene For The Elderly [Better Overall Health]

Certified Senior Advisor (CSA)®
Assistive Technology Professional
Updated:

For older adults, good oral hygiene can slow or reduce the risk of other, more serious health problems. Learn why oral hygiene is important for seniors and the elderly and how to improve their oral health.

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It is as simple as this: your oral health has a a direct impact on your overall health. There is a definite pattern of people who ignore their oral health and them develop more serious conditions. This includes more serious conditions like cardiac events.

It’s never too late to develop good oral health habits. For older people, oral health is much more important for many reasons as shown below.

Why Good Oral Hygiene is Important for Seniors and the Elderly

Here are the key reasons older adults should take great care of their teeth and gums:

1. Prevents Tooth Decay

Bacteria in the teeth causes plaque that harms the tooth enamel thereby causing cavities. Since senior adults often suffer from dry mouth syndrome, they are at a higher risk of getting cavities. Note that, saliva protects the teeth and reduces the bacteria present in the mouth.

Due to some of the medications that senior people take, they are likely going to suffer from dry mouth. Therefore, it’s important to improve overall oral hygiene to prevent tooth decay and additional illnesses that might be caused by poor oral hygiene.

2. Reduces Gum Disease

Senior citizens often suffer from gum disease. In severe cases (periodontitis) can cause sore, bleeding gums, tooth loss, chewing problems and numerous other health problems. Most seniors might not be aware that they have gum disease until it advances. Therefore, you can help your senior loved ones prevent gum disease by making sure they practice top-notch oral hygiene.

3. Minimizes Need for Dentures and Implants Due to Tooth Loss

As we grow older, we are likely going to experience a lot of tooth loss. Note that, tooth loss can also affect proper nutrition because if a senior adult is missing their teeth, they will have a hard time enjoying fresh food choices such as fruits and vegetables.

Therefore, with proper oral hygiene, especially in old age, it’s easy enough to delay tooth loss until later in life. With all your teeth even in old age, you should be able to enjoy any food you love without any hassles. It will also save you some expense from dentures, partial plates, and implants.

4. Prevents Severe Heart Issues

Inflammation in the gum is often a precursor to heart disease. The reason isn’t fully understood but the connection is clear according to researchers at Harvard.

As we grow older, we are likely going to experience heart issues but with proper oral hygiene, you can reduce the risk of heart disease or postpone it. Note that, gum disease can make some heart conditions worse and might also increase your risk of getting a stroke.

Therefore, it’s important to keep up with the oral hygiene of your elderly loved one to prevent and reduce these heart issues.

5. Reducing Diabetes Symptoms

Senior citizens, especially those suffering from diabetes, have a higher risk of suffering from dental issues. They are likely going to experience gum disease and inflammation due to changes in their blood vessels caused by diabetes according to Cedars-Sinai.

That’s because if there is too much glucose in the body, it promotes the growth of bacteria in the mouth. Therefore, maintaining proper oral hygiene is important, especially if your senior loved one has diabetes.

How To Encourage Senior Citizens To Take Care Of Their Oral Hygiene?

If your elderly loved ones are not taking care of their oral hygiene as required, you can encourage them in the following ways.

Take Them To The Dentist Regularly

Make sure they visit the dentist regularly. You can schedule dental appointments and drive them there as often as possible. If their teeth are regularly checked, it’s easy enough to catch something before it becomes worse.

Encourage Them to Brush Often

Encourage your loved ones to brush daily. Dentists encourage people to brush their teeth at least twice every day, once in the morning and once after eating. Depending on the state of your loved one’s oral hygiene, a dentist might also encourage them to brush after meals.

You can make sure that your loved one meets this routine and schedule by being there when they brush their teeth. If they are not able to brush on their own, you can help them brush their teeth.

Help Them Floss Frequently

Make sure that your senior loved ones floss their teeth regularly. Flossing allows the elderly to reduce the risk of getting gum disease and cavities. It makes it easier to reach between the teeth especially if they are too close together.

If your loved one has bridges or other types of hardware in their mouth, flossing can be quite difficult but they should take the time to perform this important task.

Have Them Rinse With High Quality Mouthwash

Finally, make sure that your loved one rinses their mouth with mouthwash as often as possible. Using an antibacterial or antiseptic mouthwash is a great way to remove any bacteria that might be lurking in the mouth.

You can see more oral care tips for seniors here.

Wrapping Up

Helping with your elderly loved one’s dental is a great way to make sure they don’t get sicker with their age. Take these tips into consideration when thinking about the oral hygiene of your elderly loved one.

Certified Senior Advisor (CSA)®
Assistive Technology Professional

Scott Grant has spent more than 20 years serving seniors and the elderly in the home medical equipment industry. He has worked as a manufacturer's rep for the top medical equipment companies and a custom wheelchair specialist at a durable medical equipment (DME) provider in WV. He is father to 4 beautiful daughters and has three terrific grandkids. When not promoting better living for older adults, he enjoys outdoor activities including hiking and kayaking and early morning runs.

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