A healthy mouth is one that is free from pain and infection, with no untreated tooth decay and with pink gums that does not bleed on brushing. The mouth should be moist, with no lumps, ulcers or unusual color.
Problems among the elderly and oral health are as such:
Caused by changes in dentin, consumption of stain causing food and drinks and also by thinning of the outer layer of enamel.
Caused by reduced saliva flow. This happens for various reasons e.g. Sjoren’s syndrome, post radiation to head and neck area as well as side effects of medication.
Decay of root
Caused by exposed root of tooth, as gum recedes from the tooth and since its not protected by enamel, it is prone to decay.
Reduced sense of taste
Advancing age impairs the sense of taste, disease, medications and dentures contributes as well.
Caused by plaque and made worse by food left in teeth, use of tobacco products, poor-fitting bridges and dentures, poor diets, and certain diseases, such as anemia, cancer, and diabetes. These are common diseases encountered by the elderly.
Gum disease is a leading cause of tooth loss.
Caused by tooth loss with no replacement of missing teeth. This leads to the rest of the teeth to drift and shift into open spaces.
Importance of oral hygiene
Germs colonize dental plaques in the elderly whom are dependent. These act as a specific reservoir especially if the elderly aspirates and ends up with lung infection. Lung infection can be a life threatening condition and it is a significant cause of morbidity and mortality.
DR. PREMALA is a specialist in Internal Medicine and a clinical fellow in Geriatric Medicine.