A new study released in August 2017 found that there is a link between gum disease and cancer in older women, reminding us all of just how great the importance of oral care for elderly people is. Although we’re told our whole lives to brush our teeth and floss, it’s easy to forget or lose focus on exactly why it’s so important. As we age, health risks increase and it becomes even more important to make sure you’re doing what you can to avoid them. Although you might not think it, there are many health risks associated with poor oral hygiene in seniors. So, let’s refresh on what those health risks are, how to prevent them, and how to identify if you are experiencing symptoms of poor oral health.
Health Risks and the Importance of Oral Care for Elderly
Poor oral hygiene can lead to things like dry mouth, sensitive teeth, tooth decay, and gum disease. The importance of oral care for elderly is in preventing these health risks, especially gum disease, because it can lead to many other conditions that negatively impact your physical health.
Grappling with Gum Disease
Gum disease is an infection in your gums that is caused by improper cleaning and build-up of plaque and bacteria in the mouth. There are links between gum disease and many other health issues such as heart disease, diabetes, and dementia. The recent study linking gum disease to cancer in older women found that gum pathogens, or bacteria, could reach other organs in the body and cause inflammation. Researchers followed more than 65,000 women who were around 68 years old, and they discovered that gum disease was associated with an overall 14 percent increased risk for cancer in women who smoke and 12 percent for those who don’t smoke. Gum disease or periodontal disease affects about 17 percent of seniors, so if you think you have gum disease know that you are not alone. Certain groups of people are more at risk for gum disease than others, such as those who smoke or people with lower incomes, so the importance of oral care for elderly in those populations is greater.
Symptoms of Gum Disease
There are some telltale signs of gum disease, and you should not ignore them. Although symptoms of gum disease come on slowly over time, they are most likely irreversible and you should see a dentist or periodontist to see what can be done to treat it. Some warning signs include:
- Bleeding gums when you brush, floss or eat hard food
- Pain in your mouth, accompanied with red, swollen or tender gums
- Gums pulling away or separating from your teeth
- Bad breath
- Loose or separating teeth
Dangers of Gum Disease
So, your gums are infected – what’s the big deal? Gum disease can obviously lead to your teeth falling out. Also, if you have bad gums, it’s harder to have your teeth replaced. Most dentists do not recommend installing dental implants into infected gums. If you want to keep all of the teeth in your smile, pay attention to the importance of oral care for elderly!
How to Prevent Gum Disease
There are many things you can do to prevent gum disease. Although there is the myth floating around that you are bound to get gum disease at some point in your adult life, that’s just not true. Symptoms of gum disease can be avoided, and some ways to prevent gum disease and maintain your oral health include:
- Visiting the dentist regularly to get your teeth cleaned
- Brushing your teeth twice a day and making sure you floss properly
- Avoiding consuming a lot of sugar, like candy and soda, and brushing your teeth after meals
- Avoiding tobacco products
Now that you know the importance of oral care for elderly people, what do you do to maintain your oral health?