Oral diseases experienced
by the older adult are either preventable or treatable.
However many older
persons do not avail themselves of the much needed treatment. Most persons
currently older than 60 years were not introduced to the concept of preventive
dentistry at a young age and thus are not use to the idea.
(cavities) has increased in the older population 31% in the last 10
For adults with their own teeth, effective
plaque removal is
the basic and essential oral home care procedure. Removal of plaque not only
prevents cavities and gum disease but also enhances the overall sense of
well-being by ensuring your mouth feels and tastes good.
1. Brushing for most older adults
needs to be done in a
circular manner using a soft toothbrush with light pressure. The best approach
to tooth brushing is one specifically designed for your abilities and tooth
status provided to you by your dentist.
2. Electric toothbrushes may be preferable to manual
many older adults, particularly those with arthritis or limited movement in
their hands and arms. Electric
toothbrushes usually have enlarged handles and require little or no arm or wrist
movement to use. These are very useful considering this population group
has a high prevalence of coronal and root cavities.**
3. Toothpastes are also recommended since they contain
ingredients that help remove stains, inhibit calculus formation (tartar-control
formulas) and provide topical fluoride.
4. Since most older adults did not have the benefits of
fluorinated water when they were children they can
still gain some benefits from fluoride intake as an adult. Periodic applications
of fluoride by your dentist can be supplemented by daily use of a
fluoride-containing toothpaste. There is no evidence that fluoride use at
recommended doses is dangerous.
5. Dental floss needs to be used daily to remove plaque from
between the teeth. Older adults with impaired manual dexterity may find the use
of a automatic flosser to be helpful.
6. Certain mouthwashes or rinses may be
good for your oral health, whereas others may be damaging, and may even make
existing diseased conditions worse, or may have no effect at all. It is important
for you to ask your dentist which mouthrinse is best for you because "cosmetic rinses," which are used primarily for a
mouth-freshening effect have major disadvantages. They contain alcohol (6-29%),
which can dry and irritate the mouth. Their effects last for only a short time
and may only succeed in hiding the real underlying cause of your bad breath, which then may not be
attended to properly.
7. Dentures need to be cleaned after each meal to remove food.
Once a day, dentures should be brushed and cleaned thoroughly and allowed to
soak overnight. When dentures are out of the mouth they should be stored in a
water-filled container. They should always be rinsed thoroughly before placing
them into your mouth.
8. To help ensure a healthy mouth, it is recommended that the
older person see a dentist every six months. At each visit, you should receive a
comprehensive intra and extra oral examination, and a thorough questioning
regarding changes in oral conditions and habits. X-rays should be taken
9. When redness, irritation, bleeding, soreness, sensitivity to
temperature changes and/or chewing is present to such a degree that it interferes
with daily routine or persists for more than 2 weeks, the problem should be
investigated by a dentist. Often the situation is easily treated.
Relationship between dental health and
10-year mortality in a elderly. The aim of the study was
to assess the possible role of dental health as a predictor of
mortality. The results showed that the more teeth or filled
teeth a subject had, the smaller was their risk for death.
The effect of missing teeth was significant after adjusting
for the general health variables. Results support the
hypothesis that poor dental health is linked to increased
mortality among elderly people.
European Journal Of Oral Sciences Volume
111 Issue 4 Page 291 - August 2003
Cleaning teeth may help prevent pneumonia
in nursing homes
Regular cleanings of
teeth and gums may help prevent pneumonia in nursing home
The results are based on
comparing pneumonia rates between residents
of 11 nursing homes who received regular teeth cleanings and
those who received no additional oral care.
This study found that residents whose
teeth were regularly cleaned had fewer cases of pneumonia and
were less likely to die from the infection. Pneumonia is
caused by germs that build up in the lungs and block the flow
of oxygen to the body. If the mouth is not clean, there
are more germs in the mouth and throat, increasing
the chances of sparking an infection.
After following the
patients for 2 years, the investigators found that residents
whose teeth were not given additional dental care were
almost twice as likely to get pneumonia. In addition,
were twice as likely to die from the infection, relative
to those whose teeth were cleaned regularly.
Facilities could have
a staff member exclusively charged with brushing residents'
teeth. It is very compelling to
have evidence that a common-sense, cheap, anyone-can-do-it
intervention — that is supposed to be done anyway —could
be saving multiple billions of dollars, if it were just done.
The benefits of oral care go beyond simple economics, it is
SOURCE: Journal of the American Geriatrics Society
it is always to the older person's advantage to investigate a dental problem
BEFORE it becomes commonplace, and ignored.
Remember, oral cancer is
painless in its early stages AND is most `treatable' in its early stages. The
older adult is in the most likely age for the presence of a lesion. The
presence or absence of teeth is not related to the possibility of developing a
Surgeon General's Report
states: Oral and pharyngeal cancers are diagnosed in nearly 30,000 Americans
annually, primarily the elderly; 8,000 die from these disease each year.
*May 2000 Dental Products Report.
**Dental Caries Prevalence and Dental Care Utilization Among the
Very Old. Warren, Cowen, Watkins, Hand J.A.D.A. Vol 131