Seniors and caregivers need to work together for better oral health

April is Oral Health Month and the B.C. Dental Association is hoping to educate seniors and their caregivers about the challenges seniors face in maintaining good oral health.

Dental health care is a growing need among B.C.’s aging population to prevent pain, infection, tooth loss and negative effects on general health and quality of life.

“Preventive dental health care is particularly important among the senior population due to the growing range and complexity of health issues that seniors face,” said Dr. Hank Klein, president of the British Columbia Dental Association.

Caregivers have an important role to play in assisting seniors with preventive care.

Older adults are increasingly reliant on others to maintain a healthy mouth. Declining dexterity, eyesight and cognitive abilities along with an increase in medications or foods and drinks that contain sugars, result in seniors being more susceptible to dental health issues which can progress rapidly without proper care.

“Unfortunately, many frail elders are not able to care for their mouths properly,” said Klein. “Family members and care providers have an important role to play in daily mouth care. Dentists and their staff have an important role to play in disease prevention, through regular examinations to diagnose problems early and professional cleanings. All of these elements result in better health outcomes for seniors.”

Klein recommends seniors visit their dentist for an exam, even if the senior wears a denture.

By visiting the dentist regularly, not only can cavities and gum disease be caught early, there is also the potential to detect other diseases, such as oral cancer.

The dental team can provide advice to care for a senior’s oral health, addressing any specific challenges, including how to brush and floss teeth.

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