Tooth Care for the Older Person
In the not too distant past, most people were destined to lose their teeth well before retirement age. Now, thankfully, that is no longer the case. With proper care, and barring accidents, there is no reason why you shouldn’t keep your teeth for life.
Tooth and gum problems are much the same throughout adult life and require the same preventative measures and the same response in terms of treatment at whatever age they occur. So we won’t discuss those here. They will be covered in separate articles.
So what specific difficulties are you likely to encounter with respect to your oral health as you get older?
Essentially, these are problems that affect other parts of the body and limit an individual’s ability to look after his or her teeth and gums:
- If you have trouble moving your hands or arms, it can make it difficult to clean your teeth properly but there is (almost) always a way. Ask your hygienist to devise a method of cleaning that will match your capabilities and meet your needs. This is her field of expertise and she will be able to help.
- An electric toothbrush is often the answer for people with reduced dexterity. The handles are fatter and easier to grip than those of manual brushes and, once you’ve placed the head of the brush in the correct position, it does all the work for you.
- If your eyesight is deteriorating, a good light and a magnifying mirror can make all the difference. Again, it’s wise to get professional advice specific to your individual needs.
- Certain medical conditions, medications or radiotherapy can cause reduced production of saliva. Saliva helps protect teeth from decay and it increases the adhesion and comfort of dentures. Artificial saliva is available over the counter from most pharmacies but your dentist will be able to advise you as to what is most appropriate for you.
- If you are housebound, you should contact your local Primary Care Trust (PCT) for a list of dentists who are equipped to provide home visits. If you require treatment that cannot be carried out in your home, they will be able to make arrangements accordingly.
I suppose this all boils down to the fact that, however difficult things may seem, there are things that can be done to make life easier. So please ask for help if you need it. That, after all, is what we’re here for.
Tom Nolan is a dentist with over 30 years’ experience.
If you found this article useful, you should check out his book
Also available as a download. This book is packed with practical advice and will tell you everything you need to know to keep your mouth healthy, trouble-free and beautiful for the rest of your life.
You can get in touch via Tom's practice:The Dentist in Town.