Importance of Dental Health in Elderly Population

What does it mean to have a healthy mouth? We will explain dental care for seniors

According to the latest research, these are the things we discuss with elderly patients:

oranges
  • Taking Probiotics
  • Taking Vitamin D/ Vitamin C
  • Flossing Daily
  • Brushing
  • Not drinking anything with acids: pop, sports drinks, juices
  • Getting professional cleanings
  • Eating fresh, unprocessed foods
elderly couple image for oral hygiene in the elderly in Lincoln, NE

Generally speaking, the challenges we encounter as dental professionals are that only a few patients actually do these things. However, we see dental problems every day. By and large, following those guidelines for a healthy mouth becomes a real challenge among some of our elderly patients. If your aging loved one is in need of dental care, any one of our Nebraska Family Dentistry Locations would love to help.

Our dental professionals spend time with elderly patients focusing on:

  • Connecting the importance of dental health to overall health.
  • Giving tips on how to help elderly patients have optimal dental health and how to recognize a potential problem at hand.
dental and overall health are connected, dental care for seniors

Dental Care 50 +, Dental Care for Seniors, and Overall Health Connection Explained

Lately, in the news, we have heard many messages about dental health and the relationship to overall health.

According to the latest research, it is more than that. It is about our mouth being a main source of bacteria: good, bad, and a mis-balance that can lead to acute or chronic Inflammation which in turn, can affect overall well-being.

Inflammation in the Mouth and Dental Care for Seniors

Altogether, more than 500 species of bacteria can be found in the oral cavity of a healthy mouth. They can be beneficial or harmful to the health of your mouth. The “good” bacteria can aid in digestion, synthesize vitamins, and protect our mouths from the “bad” bacteria. The bad bacteria is often what causes diseases as well as various mouth-related health problems. Chiefly, some of the problems may include bad breath, gingivitis, periodontitis, cavities, and plaque build-up.

Taking note of the bacteria and toxin levels in our mouths isn’t just crucial for the health of our mouths, but our entire bodies. Infections and bacterial overgrowth in the mouth can affect the entire body, moving throughout and causing other health problems such as heart disease, bacterial pneumonia, diabetes, and low birth weight.

diagram discussing infected gums and the body as a whole regarding oral hygiene dental care for seniors

Dental care for seniors: The mouth is a window into our body

Taking good care of teeth and gums is not only about preventing cavities, gum disease or bad breath. In fact, it’s about preventing inflammation in our mouth. Ultimately, we can then prevent overall health problems associated with this inflammation. Overall, the most common signs we see in the oral cavity that are associated with an increase of systemic inflammation are gingivitis, periodontal disease, and generalized cavities.

mouth linked overall health

Dental Care for Seniors and Overall Health Connection Explained

Research is showing a relationship between periodontitis and other inflammatory conditions like RA, celiac disease, thyroid disease, heart disease, atherosclerosis, type 1 diabetes, and Alzheimer’s. In addition, these conditions share autoimmune characteristics, but which came first? Is there a causal link between them?

The answer is not yet clear.

For this reason, however, we do know that in patients with uncontrolled periodontal disease or decay, we see an increase in certain conditions:

Those conditions correlated with an increase in oral inflammatory markers.

  • Endocarditis
  • Cardiovascular disease
  • Respiratory: Bacteria can be aspirated into the lungs and cause bronchitis, emphysema, and pneumonia.
  • Osteoporosis
  • Sjogren’s syndrome
  • Alzheimer’s disease
  • GI problems
dentures nebraska family dentistry lincoln NE mature man

What occurs as people age?

The top three things affected in geriatric patients and oral health.

  • Decreased Dexterity: Inability to brush and floss.
  • Dry mouth due to medications taken.
  • Ill-fitting dentures.

If any of the conditions mentioned happen, there is a misbalance of bacteria leading to more harmful bacteria. Therefore, increasing the likelihood of certain conditions and has a significant impact on  dental care for seniors

  • Dry mouth
  • Periodontal disease
  • Candida in the mouth
  • Ulcers
hydration examples for oral hygiene in the elderly in Lincoln, NE

Generally speaking, decreased salivary flow is a common side effect of most medications.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention over 400 commonly used medications can contribute to dry mouth.

Let’s go over some common dental problems we see in elderly patients. Additionally, I will also give you ideas of easy ways that you can help the elderly prevent and recognize dental problems. Basically, it’s helping them decrease the bad bacteria and increase the good bacteria.

Some of them may apply and some may not…


Problem #1 | Dental care for seniors

Decay on teeth


Decay on teeth or failing dental work

Solution:

With this in mind, be sure to see a dentist because most cavities do not hurt and actually have no symptoms unless, it reaches the nerve of the tooth. Furthermore, many teeth have nerve space that shrinks over time and cavities may never hurt unless there is an abscess that forms.

  • Brushing daily to prevent more cavities.
  • Using a special toothbrush for patients with poor dexterity.

tooth decay illustration
Tooth Decay xray

Problem #2 | Dental care for seniors

Acute Inflammation-Gingivitis


Presents due to plaque accumulation around the gum-line which is constantly forming on the teeth

Solution:

In short, gingivitis is easily reversible by controlling the plaque. Brushing thoroughly twice daily, flossing, and receiving professional cleanings regularly can reverse gingivitis within just a few days.

  • Brushing daily to prevent more cavities.
  • Using a special toothbrush for patients with poor dexterity.
Example of gingivitis showing that dental care dental care for seniors in Lincoln, NE in those 50+ years of age is very important

Problem #3 | Dental care for seniors

Chronic Inflammation-Chronic Periodontitis


In fact, chronic inflammation is due to an imbalance of bacteria leading to bone loss

Solution:

  • Complete the deep cleaning treatment at the dentist office.
  • Regular daily plaque control at home, including brushing and flossing.
  • Using a special toothbrush for patients with poor dexterity.
  • Take probiotics, vitamin D, and drink lots of water.
  • Have maintenance cleanings at the dentist office every 3-4 months to keep periodontal disease in remission.
Tooth Decay and gum disease showing the importance for dental care for seniors in Lincoln, NE



Problem #4 | Dental care for seniors

Bad Breath


Overpopulation of bad bacteria from failing dental work or gum disease.

Solution:

Using coconut oil for coconut oil pulling

The antiviral, antibacterial, and antifungal properties of the medium chain fatty acids/triglycerides (MCTs) found in coconut oil make it a perfect solution to inactivate microorganisms. Especially, those microorganisms such as bacteria, yeast, fungi, and enveloped viruses.

  • Listerine is not a good choice as it dries mouth even further
  • Drink more water
  • Tongue scraping
  • Take probiotics
  • See an MD for GI problems
doctor helping an elderly woman with oral hygiene dental care for seniors in Lincoln, NE

Problem #5 | Dental care for seniors 

White patches in a mouth/Candida


Fungal infection caused by overgrowth of candida albicans. Certainly, more likely to occur in patients with reduced immunity.

Solution:

Depending on the severity

  • Severe Cases treated with an antifungal prescription.
  • Not so severe cases are treated with coconut oil as it can dramatically reduce white patches.
  • Tongue Scraping
  • Taking Probiotics
image of Oral Thrush requiring dental care for seniors in Lincoln, NE

Problem #6 | Dental care for seniors 

Red ulcerated areas under dentures


Ill fitting denture

Solution:

See a dentist to adjust partial or denture. Additionally, orabase or orajel can help with areas of sensitivity or pain as we discuss dental care for seniors.

Red Tongue glossitis for oral hygiene in the elderly in Lincoln, NE

Problem #7 | Dental care for seniors 

Ill-Fitting Denture


Bone loss due to wearing dentures and not having implants

Solution:

  • Keep partials as long as possible to allow retaining of HEALTHY natural teeth.
  • To avoid dentures for the elderly.
  • To learn about implant retained dentures and Hybrid Prosthesis.
images showing bone volume after tooth loss and the importance of dental care for seniors in Lincoln, NE

It is never too late.

The Story of Dan:

When Dan came to see Dr. Brad Alderman, he was complaining of soreness in his mouth. Ultimately, he had a desire to extract his remaining teeth. From talking to his friends and family, Dan knew he did not want traditional dentures. Instead, Dan was looking for a permanent replacement of his teeth. He wanted to have something that would look and feel like the natural teeth he used to have.

Dan story image

Additionally, besides wanting a permanent solution for replacing his teeth, his health was affected by his remaining infected teeth. Dan’s physician suggested removing the teeth as soon as possible. Thus, helping to eliminate the bacteria and inflammation. Furthermore, Dan’s doctor was positive that removing the diseased teeth would improve Dan’s health.

Dan proceeded with the hybrid prosthesis. In his recent check-up appointment, he stated: “It took about two weeks after the implant placement for my implant bridges to feel better. After two weeks, I started having more energy, and the general drowsiness was gone. Overall, I had an easier time controlling my diabetes. In fact, my doctor confirmed it with a blood test. All things considered, I now enjoy eating with my new teeth. Above all, it is great to know that I do not have to use any denture glue or need a cup to put my dentures in overnight.”


Problem #8 | Dental care for seniors 

Red Tongue


Increase in bacteria and inflammation. Caused from folic acid, B12, or iron deficiency.

Solution:

Visit dentist and physician to verify cause of red tongue.

Problem #9 | Oral sore that does not heal

Oral cancer or ill-fitting denture

Solution:

See your dentist to verify the next step such as a biopsy.

dental care for seniors in Lincoln, NE is important as this image shows painful red tongue

Problem #9 | Dental care for seniors

Oral sore that does not heal


Oral cancer or ill-fitting denture

Solution:

See your dentist to verify the next step such as a biopsy.

Oral Cancer can occur Anywhere in the Mouth

Problem #10 | Dental care for seniors  

Corners of a mouth dry


Frequently, we see inflammation leading to redness and cracks on the corner of the mouth. In general, this is usually due to a deficiency in vitamin D and C.

Solution:

  • Check in with a physician to check on deficiency and cause.
  • Vitamin C deficiency is the most common. Apply Vaseline to the corners of the mouth.
  • Check for an ill-fitting denture. The patient may be over closing due to a poorly fitting denture.
Angular Chelitis for oral hygiene in the elderly in Lincoln, NE

Check our the “Importance of Dental Health in Elderly Population” Presentation

Dr burbach picture

This article was written by Dr. Michael Burbach

Dr. Michael Burbach offers all dental services for the entire family. He is a compassionate and caring dentist that has experience in all areas of dentistry with extensive experience in making partial or full cosmetic dentures and even replacing all teeth with hybrid bridges (All-on-4 Implants).

This Lincoln, NE dentist practices at the North location (Northstar Dental) of Nebraska Family Dentistry.

Nebraska Family Dentistry has multiple Lincoln Dental Clinics!
Choose any location “dentist near me” convenient for you.