Our teeth are not only important to our appearance, oral health is an key factor in overall well-being. Acute gum or dental infection can be a contributing factor in diseases such as diabetes and respiratory problems. Studies have also shown there is a link between poor oral health and heart disease.
According to Health Canada, seniors, especially those in long term care facilities, are at greater risk for complications from poor dental health. An increased dependence on others for help may contribute to oral health issues. It is estimated that a third of Canadians over the age of 80 live in some kind of long-term care residence and many do not offer assistance with oral health.
There are however, many assistive devices such a floss holders, which can make the process easier for elderly patients.
If untreated, gum disease can lead to loss of teeth and the bacteria in plaque can travel from the mouth to the lungs, causing infection or making existing conditions worse. And of course the ability to chew and digest food properly depends heavily on a reliable set of chompers.
Dental and oral health also affects self-esteem; our smile is one of the first things we notice about people. Missing front teeth can make the most educated, sophisticated and well-spoken person self-conscious. Missing teeth that are not replaced can also lead to bone loss.
The Canadian Dental Association recommends brushing and flossing daily as well as regular dental checkups. For more information about dental care for seniors and tips for denture care and caregivers, visit www.cda-adc.ca .