We often see older people who have teeth issues, including some who need to wear dentures (false teeth) as their original teeth have fallen off. But what is it that causes these outcomes?
There are two major tooth conditions affecting the elderly: Tooth decay and gum disease.
Also known as dental decay, this is the gradual degeneration of teeth. It happens when sugars and starches are leftover on teeth after a meal and bacteria feeds on it, creating a substance known as plaque on the teeth’s surface. The plaque soon starts removing minerals in the teeth, causing decay, reduction of biting force, and eventual tooth loss.
The decay is accelerated by
Also known as periodontitis, gum disease damages the gums which hold the teeth in place, causing loosening, reduction of biting force and eventual loss of the teeth. This can also be accelerated by sweet foods and inadequate oral hygiene habits.
Some of the same preventive steps are effective for both these dental conditions.
Likewise, both these conditions can be treated by
Many caregivers tend to de-prioritise teeth issues as they prioritise caring for organs such as the heart, lungs or kidney. There are good reasons for that, as conditions in these organs are life-threatening. But please do keep the teeth in mind as you care for an elderly care receiver, as teeth play a big role in maintaining a good quality of life.
Article reviewed by David Tay, Senior Principal Educator (Nursing and Prehospital Care), HMI Institute.