It is said that oral health is the best indicator of a person's health. Bad oral hygiene translates down to the rest of the organs, reflecting poor health. And, like all other organs of the body, the oral cavity also is ageing and therefore, requires extra attention to maintain good health and requires a longer time to heal and get back to its original state. So, as the old adage goes, prevention is better than cure.
The following are some reasons why oral health in older patients is very important:
Food/Nutrition: Be it the regular decay or the more rare cases of oral cancers, poor oral health means reduced food intake. In the elderly, the tissues supporting the teeth (periodontium) deteriorates, leading to loosening of the teeth and inability to eat and chew food. This gets into a vicious cycle, and for the elderly, good healthy nutrition is very important for overall health. If decayed teeth and weak teeth are not allowing them to eat well, the overall health takes a toll too.
Overall health: Poor oral health is associated with a higher incidence of diabetes and heart disease. Also, in diabetics especially, the periodontal tissue is easily affected and prone to infection. This leads to not just tooth mobility but also root caries. The incidence of abscess and cyst associated with root caries is much
higher than decay in the crown portion of the tooth. The simple logic is that there is more tooth structure covering the crown than the root, and therefore, the decay reaches the pulp a lot more quickly.
Medications and side effects: Dental pain, those who have experienced will swear to be one of the worst pains to go through. And in old age, it is something that is best avoided. So, better oral care and hygiene measures become all the more important. Once pain sets in, the antibiotics and painkillers become necessary, bringing with them a host of side effects.
Simple Management tips:
- Brush twice a day using fluoridated toothpaste
- Rinse with each meal with a mouthwash is possible, else with plain water
- Floss regularly to prevent interdental caries
- Routine bi-annual visits to the dentist, especially if you are prone for decay or have dry mouth. Whether it is a small decay or a lesion, the dentist will be able to detect it early and arrest and/or treat it
- Don't ignore lumps or sore throat that is persistent
- Quit smoking, use of tobacco (if applicable)
- Healthy diet that is rich in fibre
To avoid the vicious cycle of dental symptoms and complications and their effect on general health, it is advisable to do some basic hygiene measures.