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Oral health: a gateway to the overall well-being of the elderly


Oral health and overall health are closely connected in elderly individuals. Poor oral health can lead to various systemic conditions such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes, pneumonia, and malnutrition. On the other hand, systemic diseases can also negatively impact oral health, causing issues such as dry mouth, gum disease, and tooth loss. Elderly individuals need to maintain good oral hygiene practices and regularly visit their dentist to ensure both their oral and overall health are in good condition.


What are good oral hygiene practices?

Good oral hygiene practices for the elderly include:

  1. Brushing teeth twice a day with a fluoride toothpaste

  2. Flossing daily to remove plaque and food particles from between teeth

  3. Using mouthwash to kill bacteria and freshen breath

  4. Replacing toothbrushes regularly (every 3-4 months or sooner if bristles are frayed)

  5. Scheduling regular dental check-ups and cleanings (at least twice a year)

  6. Eating a balanced diet low in sugar and avoiding excessive snacking

  7. Avoiding tobacco and limiting alcohol consumption

  8. Staying hydrated to maintain saliva production

  9. Managing any chronic medical conditions, such as diabetes, to prevent their impact on oral health

Elderly individuals may also need to take additional steps to maintain their oral health, such as using special kinds of toothpaste for sensitive teeth or undergoing regular fluoride treatments. A dentist can provide personalized recommendations for maintaining good oral hygiene.


How to brush your teeth properly?

Here are steps for proper tooth brushing in the elderly:

  1. Choose a toothbrush with soft bristles to avoid damaging gums and tooth enamel.

  2. Wet the toothbrush in water and apply toothpaste.

  3. Hold the toothbrush against the teeth at a 45-degree angle, pointing the bristles towards the gum line.

  4. Gently brush using circular or back-and-forth motions, focusing on each tooth individually.

  5. Brush the chewing surfaces of the teeth, and the inside surfaces of the front teeth, using the tip of the brush and the tongue to remove bacteria and freshen breath.

  6. Brush for at least two minutes, making sure to reach all areas of the mouth.

  7. Spit out the toothpaste and rinse your mouth and toothbrush with water.

It may be helpful for elderly individuals to use an electric toothbrush, as it can be easier to grip and can do a better job of removing plaque. Additionally, using fluoride toothpaste can help strengthen tooth enamel and prevent decay. Regular dental check-ups are also essential to ensure proper brushing technique and to identify any potential problems early.


How good are the elderly at brushing their teeth properly?

The ability of the elderly to brush their teeth properly can vary greatly. Some elderly individuals may have good oral hygiene habits and brush their teeth effectively. In contrast, others may have physical or cognitive limitations that make it difficult for them to maintain good oral hygiene.

Factors that can affect the ability of the elderly to brush their teeth properly include:

  1. Arthritis or other physical limitations that make it difficult to grip a toothbrush or perform brushing motions

  2. Cognitive decline or dementia affects their ability to remember to brush and how to brush effectively

  3. Poor vision makes it difficult to see the toothbrush and teeth

  4. Dry mouth, which can reduce the protective effects of saliva and make it harder to remove plaque

In cases where elderly individuals have difficulties brushing their teeth, caregivers can assist or seek the advice of a dental professional. The use of adapted toothbrushes or tools, such as electric toothbrushes, can also help make brushing easier. Regular dental check-ups are also essential to assess the elderly individual's oral hygiene and identify any issues that may need to be addressed.


How can the elderly be taught better oral hygiene?

Elderly individuals can be taught better oral hygiene through a combination of education and practical support. Here are some steps that can be taken:

  1. Education: Provide information on the importance of oral hygiene for overall health and explain proper brushing and flossing techniques. This information can be delivered through verbal instructions, written materials, or instructional videos.

  2. Hands-on demonstration: Provide a hands-on demonstration of proper brushing and flossing techniques using a model or the individual's mouth. This can help the individual understand how to perform these tasks effectively.

  3. Adaptive tools: Provide or recommend adaptive tools, such as electric toothbrushes or toothbrushes with larger handles or salivary stimulators to make brushing and flossing easier.

  4. Regular check-ups: Encourage regular dental check-ups and cleanings to help maintain good oral hygiene and identify any issues that need to be addressed.

  5. Caregiver support: If the elderly individual requires assistance, provide or arrange for a caregiver to provide support with brushing and flossing.

  6. Positive reinforcement: Encourage and praise the individual for their efforts to improve their oral hygiene and help them see the benefits of their efforts for their overall health.

It is important to approach teaching oral hygiene to elderly individuals with patience and understanding, as changes to habits and routines can be challenging. A dental professional can provide personalized recommendations and support.


It is worth it since saving one tooth for as long as possible can help elderly people maintain their oral function, nutrition, facial structure, and self-esteem and reduce their need for more extensive dental treatments. It can have significant benefits for society as well, including improved health, reduced healthcare costs, e.g., dental procedures, hospitalization, and other medical expenses, can increase productivity, and it leads to the improved overall quality of life.


 

About Aceso ACESO is a patient-centric solution for smart and sustainable healthcare, employing a co-creative approach to realize integrated health and oral-care platform in which intelligent devices use data analytics for adaptable health and well-being. ACESO will monitor parameters related to physical health (blood pressure, glucose, heart rate, oxygen saturation, etc.), activity, sleep, and oral hygiene in an integrative manner which will provide primary users with personalized and adaptive feedback extracted by the underlying artificial intelligence engine. A patient-centric approach that actively involves users in maintaining their health will bring clear benefits for the elderly and caregivers. Aceso is funded by AAL. More about Aceso... About AAL AAL- Ageing Well in the Digital World - is a funding program that aims to create a better quality of life for older people and to strengthen industrial opportunities in the field of healthy aging technology and innovation. More about AAL. Contact: www.aal-aceso.eu/contact

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