With Halloween just behind us and all the holiday sweets just ahead of us, now is the perfect time to discuss oral health in seniors. Oral health can change during the senior years, so with teeth, gums and other areas of the mouth at greater risk of complications, routine dental care remains as important as ever.
Seniors should follow these guidelines to increase their chances of maintaining good oral health:
- See a dentist twice a year to have teeth cleaned and examined.
- Rinse with mouthwash once or twice a day (only if it can be done without swallowing).
- Floss at least once daily.
- Brush twice a day.
While these practices may not completely prevent tooth decay and other oral health issues, they can certainly lower the risk of cavities and other problems. The National Center for Health Statistics estimates that about 20 percent of Americans over 65 have untreated cavities.
Oral health challenges for seniors
These changes in dental health come just as many retirees find that paying for dental care is difficult, as it isn’t covered by Medicare. Less than half of all Medicare recipients have visited a dentist in the past year; for low-income recipients, the rate is one in four. Some communities have dental practices that offer reduced-fee services to seniors with limited income. In many areas, you can contact your local dental society to see what services are available to qualified seniors.
The American Dental Association says that physical and cognitive impairments associated with aging can make dental self-care challenging. For example, those with dementia may forget to brush their teeth or even how to brush. Seniors with arthritis in their hands and fingers may find brushing and flossing to be difficult. And for some, prescription medications can cause adverse changes in oral health.
The Alzheimer’s Association offers suggestions for assisting seniors with dementia with dental care. Those with arthritis might benefit from assistive devices such as easy toothpaste tube squeezers, double-sided denture brushes and floss aids, which are available online. And, because some medications can cause dry mouth, artificial saliva and denture fixatives can be good solutions for seniors with dentures.
Personal care can make a difference
These seniors are more likely to maintain their dental health and keep their teeth if they receive regular treatment and care. At assisted living and personal care homes, trained staff can assist residents with care of their teeth and dentures, along with daily personal tasks such as dressing, bathing and medication management, 24 hours a day.
At Country Meadows Retirement Communities, our staff provides compassionate support to residents with assisted living and personal care services that also include weekly housekeeping, linen service and transportation to appointments, shopping areas and church. Monthly assisted living costs at Country Meadows also cover three daily meals and all utilities, including heat, air conditioning, cable television and wireless internet access.
We assist all our residents in managing every facet of their health, including those requiring memory support and residents of our independent living communities as needed. If you would like support for your health care needs and are choosing a retirement community near you, we invite you to contact us. We would like to meet and talk with you about all that we can offer you or your loved one.
We have 10 Pennsylvania retirement homes—in Lancaster, Hershey, Mechanicsburg, Pittsburgh, Wyomissing, York-South, York-West, Allentown, Bethlehem and Easton—as well as a retirement community in Frederick, Maryland. We would be happy to give you a tour of any of our senior communities and introduce you to our full range of services.