As a teenager in high school I remember the coach, a relatively young man at the time, pulling out his dentures as a way of getting our attention. We all giggled at his toothless grin, as he cautioned us about caring for our teeth since he had lost his due to a football injury. Yet it wasn’t until my mom, who was in her 50’s, had to have dentures to replace her much decayed and diseased teeth that the importance of good dental hygiene became abundantly clear. Up until that point we only made dental visits if we were in severe pain due to a toothache. With many other high priority issues of feeding and caring for a large family, preventative dental care was not on the top of our to-do lists.
Fortunately, today’s older adults are able to keep their natural teeth much longer than older adults of the past and while there is less need for either complete or partial dentures, there is still a substantial risk for tooth decay and gum disease. According to the American Academy of Periodontology, there are many risk factors for gum disease and age is a prime cause with over 70% of Americans 65 and older having periodontitis. This disease is an inflammation of the tissue around the teeth, often causing shrinkage of the gums and loosening of the teeth. Other factors include smoking/tobacco use, genetics, stress, medications, clenching or grinding your teeth and poor nutrition and obesity.
If you’re a caregiver for an older adult, looking out for their health means not only keeping an eye on their nutritional and physical needs but also on their teeth and gums. Much can be determined about overall health by the condition of the mouth. Whether a person has their natural teeth or dentures, a little help can go a long way toward maintaining good dental hygiene. Besides there is nothing better than a healthy, beautiful smile to build up a persons’ confidence and self-image.
mmLearn.org provides over 300 FREE online videos for caregivers of older adults with several presentations on dental care provided by UTHSCSA Dental Hygiene Department. One of our newer presentations on this subject is by Dr. Michele J. Saunders, What Does Being Directly Responsible for the Dental Care of Nursing Facility Residents Mean?
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