Not only are more older people living longer, but many are coming into later life with natural teeth rather than dentures, and an increasing number with rather complicated but well-maintained mouths complete with crowns, bridges and implants as well as many fillings. Oral health has clearly been a priority in the past.

 

Good mouth care, whether undertaken independently, or by a carer, will contribute to health and wellbeing. Neglecting this aspect of personal care can lead to pain, discomfort, difficulties in eating and mouth infections. Prevention really is better than cure, and much can be done to retain independence in the face of reduced dexterity by trying different adapted handles on toothbrushes.

 

Fluoride in toothpaste is as important for older people as it is for the younger ones. As we get 'long in the tooth' nd gums recede, natural teeth can suffer from sugar-attacks below the gum margin, a common problem known as root caries. You don't need a lot of water when you brush your teeth. If being in front of a basin is difficult, try the dry-brushing method. Place toothpaste containing 1450 ppm fluoride on a dry brush, and if you work slowly round the mouth one tooth at a time, paying particular attention to the gum margins, saliva will be produced which can be spat into a paper towel and the surplus froth wiped from the mouth. This way, the fluoride will not be rinsed off the teeth too quickly and will help repair or strengthen the teeth. This is why the current oral hygiene advice for us all is 'spit don't rinse'.

 

A healthy diet will also contribute to good oral health. You can increase eating fresh fruit and vegetables when your mouth is comfortable and reduce your consumption of sugar too by keeping items with added sugar to mealtimes. Avoid snacking on biscuits and sweets throughout the day.

 

Many prescribed medicines can cause a dry mouth which in itself can add to the risk of tooth decay, root caries, or tooth enamel erosion especially if boiled sweets are sucked frequently or fruit/fizzy drinks sipped throughout the day. Sipping water, or sucking small ice cubes of plain water can be very refreshing and

 

Good oral health can deteriorate very quickly when neglected and daily routine mouth care is part of normal personal hygiene. If neglected, gum disease, ulcers and mouth infections can result, leading to difficulty with eating or enjoying a full range of food. This can lead to malnutrition. Speech can also be affected and a general sense of wellbeing lost.