Things to consider when taking care of Grandma

Dental care for the older and elderly need not be daunting, but can pose certain challenges of its own. The best start, as always, is an early one: Taking proper care of one’s teeth from the beginning.  Some people will be able to keep their teeth well into old age with little help from a dentist, but most of us may need more help along the way.

A good routine – daily brushing and flossing – should be continued for as long as possible. However, home dental care could become impeded by physical changes such as limited range of motion: Arthritis and the aftereffects of a stroke are just two medical conditions that might make it difficult to continue reaching up to, and into one’s mouth.  Also, mental changes like Alzheimer’s disease may cause an adversity to proper oral care. If you live with an older relative, you can offer your assistance with any aspect of the care process in a gentle manner, up to the point where it is acceptable.

At the dentist’s office: Elderly may be more insecure and frightened by their surroundings.  When helping them choose a dentist, you might want to consider how the practice is run, and get a first impression of the staff. A good family dentist will have patience as well as skill, and be able to take into consideration as well as accommodate special needs as they arise.

Sometimes dental problems are brought on, or compounded by medications for other parts of the body; medications that contain chemicals that may cause dry mouth or oral thrush. Dry mouth, a condition that keeps the salivary glands from producing enough saliva, can be treated by aiding the saliva production with something as simple as chewing sugar free gum. Oral thrush, a yeast infection, can be treated with medication in varying forms.

In some cases, your dentist may find that tooth decay is so progressed that restorative dentistry would not be a benefit any more, or cause too many surgeries posing a health risk. In this case your dentist might suggest full dentures.

For every day life, just being observant may go a long way towards healthy happy eating for your senior friends or relatives :  Avoid food with kernels that may get stuck, or tough meat that may be hard to chew, or very crisp vegetables for the same reason. If you are not sure what kind of food your guests are comfortable with, ask prior to inviting them. This will save both parties potential embarrassment, and make your dinner enjoyable.

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Dr. Mead is an educator in the dental field, as well as an experienced family dentist with his practice located in Purcell, Oklahoma.
To schedule an appointment or to ask questions, please call:
405.527.6568

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