Maintaining excellent oral health supports your overall health and life quality much more than you might expect.
Thus, geriatric dentistry is a key component of Bumrungrad’s multidisciplinary team that provides holistic health care to elders. Our geriatric dental professionals provide care for seniors with a variety of oral health programs, whether simply for maintenance or for more serious conditions.
Better Health talks with Dr. Matana Kettratad D.D.S., who is specially trained in geriatric dentistry. Her practice focuses on age-related oral diseases and preventative oral health care.
Older mouths require concerted care
Common oral health problems in seniors include dental caries (tooth decay), dental attrition, gingival recession, problems with implants and false teeth (looseness or friction), xerostomia, angular cheilitis, and periodontitis (also known as pyorrhea), which typically accompanies diabetes. Elders with health problems need special mouth care, especially those with multiple chronic diseases who take multiple medications; and cancer patients undergoing radiation therapy around the head or throat, which affects the salivary glands, which increases the risk for caries and mouth ulcers.
“If elders don’t address these problems, they may have difficulty eating and may have a decreased appetite. This can eventually lead to malnutrition,” Dr. Matana says. “Patients at risk for respiratory infections also need to avoid oral infections because germs in the mouth can infect the lungs.”
Simple ways to a healthy smile
People’s mouths change as they age, which means they must adapt to changes in their oral healthcare. For example, older people’s sense of taste changes. Aging mouths produce a thinner oral soft tissue. When accompanied with dry mouth as a side effect of multiple medications, some elders may easily develop ulcers, a burning sensation, or become sensitive to spicy foods. These signs indicate that their current method of oral care is no longer sufficient. Dr. Matana suggests that seniors:
- Use fluoride toothpaste and have it in contact with teeth for at least two minutes during brushing.
- Floss or use interproximal brushes daily. Dental floss and brush size depend on the size of gaps between teeth.
- Those with xerostomia or insufficient saliva can stimulate saliva glands by eating foods with fiber and frequently sipping water. The doctor may suggest using artificial saliva for more severe cases.
- Eat foods high in fiber to stimulate chewing, which helps to scrape and clean the teeth.
- Avoid sugary foods, which can cause dental caries.
- See a dentist regularly.
“Oral health and overall health are inextricably related,” Dr. Matana emphasizes. “But while elderly people need special attention, younger people should also take good care of their teeth and gums to minimize problems as they age. Good oral health affects the quality of life, regardless of how old you are!”