Dental professionals have always urged their patients to take care of their mouths. It is argued that a healthy mouth equates to an overall healthy lifestyle. A mouth filled with cavities or a mouth that has full of solid, white teeth can mean a lot in determining if you’re a healthy person or not.
When it comes to elderly healthcare, oral health is one of the most important elements, according to a recent study originating in Europe. The Dutch study concluded that technological advancements made in dentistry have led to the possibility of a longer life for the elderly. Essentially, it found that constant high-quality oral healthcare has been a contributing factor to an individual’s health and well-being.
The study led by the Dr. Gert-Jan van der Putten of the Flemish-Netherlands Geriatric Oral Research Group in Nijmegen examined the consequences of old people not properly looking after their teeth, gums, tongue and other aspects of a person’s mouth. This neglect affected their general health.
It discovered that older adults are not able to clean their mouth efficiently and the elderly are likelier to ignore dental health. By having dental health problems, it can lead to serious health risks, such as diabetes and heart disease.
Due to frailty and immobility, many old people are sent to long-term care facilities. Here, the professionals help with their clothing, nutrition, memory and day-to-day tasks. However, there are many experts who refrain from helping them floss, brush and rinse their teeth, which further deteriorate their health.
Of course, the study authors are not concluding that the nurses and nursing assistants are doing this on purpose. It’s the fact that many of them are not trained in performing dental duties and are unaware of how important it is to take care of your mouth, no matter what age you may be.
In fact, because of advancements made in the dental industry, the number of adults retaining their natural teeth into old age has gone up, while the number of adults with missing teeth has declined drastically.
“Although during recent years increasing attention has been given to improving oral health care for frail old people, there is ample evidence showing that the oral health of elderly people, in particular of care home residents is (still) poor,” the researchers wrote in the journal European Geriatric Medicine.
The primary oral care issues include cavities, gum disease and matters involving implanted teeth.
The researchers warned that if these matters are not corrected soon then poor oral health in the elderly will become just as dire as those suffering from incontinence, memory loss, immobility and other problems that are usually found in old age. Therefore, the study authors are calling on healthcare providers, policymakers, scientists and politicians to address the topic of oral health in seniors as soon as possible.
Dr. Anthony Iacopino, a spokesperson for the American Dental Association (ADA) and dean of the Faculty of Dentistry at the University of Manitoba, told Reuters that the ADA and state organizations are already tackling the matter by having dentists available in nursing homes and daily oral healthcare regimens are taking place in long-term care centers.