A healthy mouth supports comfort, nutrition, and overall systemic health.

Studies published in dental journals indicate that, although more people are keeping their teeth throughout their lives, older Americans are at risk for more oral health problems than any other age. This is due to wear on teeth, loss of manual dexterity that makes thorough brushing and flossing more difficult, development of gum disease that becomes a chronic inflammation, memory loss, medical complications, and medications. The problem increases if the individual can no longer travel to a dental office.

Dental services in long-term care facilities is poor in general. Overworked caregivers are not motivated to spend sufficient time brushing and flossing teeth, especially in the mouths of elderly complaining of discomfort or annoyed that their mouths need to be cleaned by someone other than themselves. Oral problems are not always noticed and reported for proper diagnosis and treatment.

Before choosing a nursing home for a loved one, you should inquire about the dental care available. Does the nursing staff do basic mouth care? Will the patient’s mouth be thoroughly cleaned once or twice a day? Is there a visiting dentist to observe and treat the oral health of patients? Is there an on-call dentist who will see the patient in the nursing home when needed?

Is your loved one already in a nursing facility? If so, is your loved one able to visit their own dentist if you provide the transport and assistance needed? If so, that is encouraged. Will your loved one let you examine their mouth for sores, loose teeth, signs of inflammation, and so on? Is your loved one experiencing dental pain of any kind? Complaining about ill-fitting dentures? Report all observations to the nursing staff, and insist on appropriate follow up by a dentist.

If you would like to discuss concerns about dental care and oral health for the elderly, you may schedule a consult with Dr. Monika Aneja at Mint Dental in Bradenton by calling (941) 792-1447. Dr. Aneja treasures relationships with elderly patients and makes it a priority to respond to their needs.

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