The state of one’s oral health has a direct connection to overall health. As we age, ensuring good oral and dental health becomes increasingly important. While many people believe that tooth loss is a natural and inevitable part of getting older, this is actually a myth. A good oral health practice that includes brushing twice daily, flossing once per day, and visiting your dentist regularly for routine cleanings and checkups, is essential at any age. Maintaining good oral health is particularly important for seniors as it can reduce the risk of developing serious health conditions, including pneumonia, diabetes, and heart disease.
About Teeth and Ageing
The process of aging can be hard on the teeth, mouth, and gums, just as it is on other systems and parts of the body. As we age, we become more susceptible to the buildup of plaque, as well as older fillings becoming weak or cracked. Teeth can also become increasingly brittle, caused by a reduction in remineralization. It is also common for seniors to experience reduced muscular control, which can make chewing more difficult and increase denture slippage for those who wear them. In general, seniors have an increased risk of the development of periodontal disease.
While these factors can indicate an increased risk of developing oral health problems in older individuals, this isn’t always the case in healthy individuals. Recent research has shown that advanced age doesn’t guarantee poor oral health, and good oral health habits can keep your mouth healthy at any age.
Generally speaking, a strong oral health practice can help to prevent, and in some cases even reverse, the development of dental or oral health diseases.
The Importance of Maintaining Good Oral Health for Seniors
Awareness of the importance of strong oral hygiene is generally understood by most people. We start learning about the benefits at a young age from our parents, educators, and healthcare professionals. A good oral hygiene practice helps to prevent tooth decay, the development of cavities and gum disease, tooth loss, bad breath, and more.
Maintaining good oral health helps to reduce the risk of developing:
Respiratory Infections such as Pneumonia – Bacterial pneumonia is the primary cause of death in residents of long-term care facilities. Bacteria in the saliva can spread to the lungs via the windpipe. Proper oral health care can reduce the risk of developing pneumonia among seniors.
Cardiovascular Diseases – Research has shown that the presence of gum disease increases the risk of developing cardiovascular disease. In general, inflammation increases the risk of
Developing Disease – When bacteria are allowed to build up, causing gum disease, inflammation throughout the body can result. This inflammation can eventually enter the bloodstream, causing clots that can lead to cardiovascular disease.
Diabetes – Scientists have discovered a proven link between gum disease and the development of diabetes. In general, individuals with diabetes have a greater risk of developing infections. This makes the development of periodontal disease higher for those with diabetes. In addition, oral infections can increase the severity of diabetes, which can cause other complications, such as the premature degradation of nerves, eyes, kidneys, and blood vessels.
Poor Nutrition – Studies have shown that poor oral health in seniors and older adults can lead to poor or malnutrition due to decreased access to a variety of nutritious foods due to discomfort, pain, and/or tooth loss. Poor oral health can also cause mouth tenderness or soreness, difficulty chewing and eating, and loss of taste and smell, which in turn can cause weight loss and dehydration.
Oral Cancer – While it is true that oral cancer can occur at any age, seniors are seven times more likely to develop this condition. Oral cancer is widely considered to be more serious than skin cancer among seniors. Routine dental checkups can help prevent this disease from progressing.
The Bottom Line
As we get older, considering and caring for our oral health becomes increasingly important. Oral health is an essential element of overall health and should always be included in healthcare for people of all ages.
Not only does a good oral health practice help to maintain the health of your teeth and gums as you age, but it can also help prevent the development of serious health conditions. Learn more about the importance of oral health in seniors, or book your appointment by contacting our Guelph dentist’s office today!