Addressing Common Oral Care Difficulties Faced by Seniors

Dentist is presenting dentures to an elderly woman
A dentist is presenting dentures to an elderly woman, and describing how to care for them. The elderly woman is seated in a dentist chair. – Photo by Gustavo Fring on Pexels

For older adults, there are added challenges that accompany oral care. Luckily, however, there are multiple ways to manage these dilemmas in a positive and functional way. Listed below are prevalent oral care difficulties faced by seniors, followed by recommendations on how to productively address them. 

Worn Out Teeth

With years of utilizing teeth to eat, drink, and chew, it’s only natural that as a consequence, the teeth become worn out. This is because some actions, like over-brushing or poor nutrition, can exhaust enamel (a natural layer of protection for the teeth). Other factors that lessen enamel and create worn teeth are persistent grinding, clenching, or acid reflux.

Worn teeth have the unfortunate tendency to become stained or brittle. Brittle teeth will frequently chip and cause other issues and discomfort for seniors. Toothaches are frequently a result of worn or brittle teeth.   

How to Address Wear and Tear

If you are exasperated by worn teeth and their consequences, the following strategies that can help: 

  • Fluoride supplements
  • Taking care of your teeth faithfully 
  • Going to the dentist for personalized treatment and help 
  • Having your dentist give protection for the teeth based on your circumstances, such as root canals, veneers, or dental sealants

Taking action for your teeth by doing what is listed above will make a phenomenal difference. For those who receive home care for seniors, they have reminders and assistance to routinely take care of their teeth. 

Aged, Sore Gums

Sore and aged gums can be just as uncomfortable as worn teeth. Sore gums are caused by a buildup of bacteria and tarter that haven’t been removed or taken care of. As you get older, less saliva is manufactured, meaning that bacteria isn’t cleared away as consistently. Additionally, age, vitamin deficiencies, viruses, and illnesses will also cause sore gums. 

Regardless of the cause, gum pain makes it more painful to eat, causes heightened sensitivity in the mouth, and if it isn’t handled may lead to larger problems in seniors. However, there are available methods to help.

Ways to Manage Sore and Aged Gums

Since sore gums are caused by bacteria build up, they can be properly addressed by:

  • Flossing every day 
  • Correctly brushing twice a day 
  • Keeping up with regular dentist check ups and cleaning
  • Using personalized recommendations and treatments from your dentist
  • Avoiding strong substances that might irritate them
  • Using a gum-sensitive toothpaste and toothbrush

If sore gums persist, you can try a saltwater rinse (if approved by your dentist) or apply a cold compression to reduce swelling. 

Dentures

Dentures are artificial teeth that are typically custom made for the individual. Their design can be personalized based on the unique situation of each patient. For seniors who experience continuing grievances with their teeth, such as pain or difficulty with oral care, dentures are always an option to explore. 

Dentures can serve as a preventative measure for future oral issues, and offer assistance for common dental functions, such as chewing.

Caring for Dentures

It’s critical to properly take care of dentures, and this can be done by:

  • Brushing and rinsing them
  • Removing them when it’s time
  • Handling them with care and making sure that they don’t fall or aren’t dropped
  • Avoidance of hard or sticky foods

The dentures dentists provide will often come with instructions on how to care for them, and ensuring those instructions are followed is crucial.

Dental Care Insurance and Expenses 

A dental hygienist is cleaning a woman’s teeth
A dental hygienist is cleaning an older woman’s teeth. The hygienist is holding dental equipment and using overhead lights for increased efficiency. – Photo by Cedric Fauntleroy on Pexels

For older adults, covering dental costs may be a challenge. This is largely due to retirement, not having dental insurance, or using the funds for other necessary medical expenses. This may understandably deter older adults from seeking oral care, and as a result, could create additional complications. 

Thankfully, there are strategies that will help. 

Ways to Manage

The following are options to help offset dental costs for seniors:

  • Dental grants
  • Dental financing 
  • Charities or fundraising
  • Government assistance
  • Researching affordable dental insurance plans for seniors

 

For seniors who require financial assistance for oral care, it’s possible to make it happen with research and help from loved ones. 

Common oral care difficulties that seniors face are worn-out teeth, sore gums, dentures, and covering dental costs. These can all be addressed by proper oral hygiene, trips to the dentist, and finding additional resources to help cover the costs. Addressing common oral care issues for seniors will help them with their overall health and well-being.

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