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Senior Hygiene 101 - Oral Care

User in Miami, FL
Feb. 22, 2017

One of my senior clients began complaining this week about her dentures because they're hurting her mouth and affecting her ability to eat. We scheduled a dentist visit, but I also began researching ways to improve her oral care. Maybe the tips I discovered will improve senior hygiene for someone you know.

1. Understand how health conditions affect a senior's oral hygiene. They can cause gum disease, affect denture fit and create other oral hygiene challenges.

*Arthritis inhibits oral care, including flossing and brushing.

*Medications, including blood pressure meds and anti-depressants, cause dry mouth that may increase plaque and bad breath while compromising denture comfort. Certain immuno-suppressants may also increase the risk for periodontal disease since they inhibit a senior's ability to fight infections.

*Diabetes can increase gum disease and cause oral discomfort and ill-fitting dentures.

*Osteoporosis deteriorates the jaw and may cause ridges in gum tissue that trap food and increase oral disease risks.

*Cancer treatment may alter taste buds, inflame the gum, cheeks and lips, cause jaw stiffness or increase jaw swelling.

2. Brush and floss twice a day. An electric toothbrush may also be easier to handle than a manual toothbrush. Also, consider adaptive devices that improve grip. For example, glue a bicycle grip, sponge hair curler or rubber ball to the handle and use a ruler, tongue depressor or wooden popsicle stick to extend the handle's length.

3. See a dentist regularly. Bi-annual check-ups catch any gum, periodontal or other dental diseases. The dentist can also provide oral hygiene tips that help a senior maintains good oral care habits.

4. Suck on sugar-free candy and drink plenty of fluids. They combat dry mouth.

Senior hygiene can be a challenge. These tips may help seniors improve their oral care and hygiene. Are there any other tips you recommend?

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