The aging process, prescription medication, and barriers to proper oral care all contribute to a decline in senior dental health. In fact, older adults are at higher risk of untreated tooth decay, gum disease, tooth loss, oral cancer, and dry mouth. When oral health declines, nutrition often declines, too, due to difficulty eating and drinking.
Santé’s extensive experience in rehab, home health, and hospice has left us with a few little-known tricks for overcoming barriers to oral health. Here, we’re happy to share some senior dental care tips with you so you can keep your loved one healthy at home for as long as possible.
#1 – Watch for subtle cues
Older adults suffering from Alzheimer’s or other forms of dementia often struggle to verbalize discomfort or pain. Watching for cues – like loss of appetite – can help you identify and treat dental issues early, preventing extensive damage or tooth loss.
#2 – Promote independence
Older adults often have the same desire to complete tasks independently as you do. As a result, they may demonstrate frustration and resistance when you or a caregiver tries to do something for them that they can do themselves. Always give your loved one an opportunity to brush their teeth independently before stepping in to assist.
#3 – Invest in oral swabs
Dry mouth increases the risk of dental decay because saliva, which typically washes bacteria away from the teeth, is lacking. Dry mouth is common in the elderly, especially those on medications known to cause dry mouth and those receiving end-of-life care. Glycerin swabs are a simple way to keep your loved one’s lips and mouth hydrated and prevent unnecessary discomfort. They don’t taste bad, they’re easy to get through even the tightest lips, and they’re highly effective in restoring moisture.
#4 – Encourage adequate hydration
Drinking plenty of water can wash sugars, acids, and bacteria away from the teeth, helping to prevent decay. When routine brushing is not possible, encouraging water intake is one step you can take to help.
To learn more or further explore home health or hospice services across Arizona, reach out to Santé today. Our caregivers are dedicated to helping and healing.