Your Aging Parent And Dental Care

If you have a parent in a nursing home, they may need a little help taking care of their teeth. Seniors can have a variety of issues that affect their teeth and gums. Make it a point to talk with your parent about their dental hygiene habits. Inspect their teeth when you visit. Don't hesitate to get them to the dentist at the first sign of a problem, before it becomes worse. Here are some of the common dental problems faced by the aging parent.

Age-Related Dental Issues

Poor dental hygiene habits, health issues and some of the medications your parent takes will contribute to one or more of the following dental problems.

  • Tooth darkening - Teeth often darken naturally with age. Stains on teeth become more apparent. Some medications can affect the enamel and darken your parent's teeth. Little can be done to lighten teeth that darken from age.
  • Dry mouth - Some medications will reduce the production of saliva in the mouth. Radiation treatment of tumors in the head and neck can damage the salivary glands. Dry mouth is one cause of bad breath. It can also cause the tongue to crack and become sore. Encourage your parent to frequently take sips of water. Give them a water bottle to carry with them. They can also chew gum to keep the mouth moist.
  • Gum recession -  Another common issue is that the gums move away from the tooth root. This creates a pocket between the tooth and gum in which bacteria and food become trapped. You can't reverse the gum recession but regular brushing with special attention to the base of the teeth will prevent decay from forming on the tooth root.
  • Gum disease - Lifelong habits, such as smoking and poor dental hygiene, will contribute to gum disease. Chronic conditions, such as diabetes, affect the gums and allow plaque to build up on teeth and quickly turn to tartar, the precursor to tooth decay. Daily brushing and flossing will slow down gum disease.
  • Stomatitis - Poor dental hygiene and dentures that irritate the mouth can cause an inflammation of the mucous membrane. If your parent complains about their dentures, or resists putting them in, have the dentures checked for proper fit.

Preventing Dental Issues in Your Parent with Proper Hygiene

Have your parent visit the dentist regularly to monitor their dental health. Get your parent started on a strict hygiene routine to prevent painful problems.

  • brush and floss after each meal
  • brush the tongue and inside the cheeks
  • use a fluoride toothpaste
  • rinse the mouth out after snacks
  • rinse with an anti-microbial mouthwash
  • keep dentures clean and brush the gums with the dentures out of the mouth

As your aging parent's body changes, they can face a number of health issues. Make sure dental problems aren't one of them by helping your parent establish good dental habits while in the retirement center. For more information, contact a dentist like Dr. Susan Bracker, DDS.