In the first of our quarterly blog articles on Seniors well-being, we want to focus on good oral health. Being a senior is not, in and of itself, the only factor in determining oral health. But some medical conditions, such as arthritis of the fingers, may make brushing or flossing teeth difficult to perform. Some prescription drugs can also negatively affect oral health.
Our diet has a huge impact on the longevity of our teeth. And often we take our teeth for granted. We chew hard candies, nuts, even bones and this contributes to the slow but inescapable wear of our teeth. We learn from an early age to avoid sugars because we were told that it causes cavities. That is actually not true! At least not directly. Instead, the sugar is metabolized by a bacteria that lives in your mouth which then gives off an acid. It is this acid that dissolves minerals from your teeth and this can result in a cavity.
Dietary sugar comes from fruit as well as candy. We certainly do not advocate that our seniors avoid fruits. They are essential for our health and well being. However, to minimize acid erosion on teeth, consider the following:
- Avoid snacking on acidic fruits all day long. Melons and bananas are safe. Other more risky fruits can be enjoyed after each meal. That means a maximum of three times a day. Minimize the number of times your teeth come in contact with acids.
- Brushing your teeth immediately after eating or drinking anything acidic will only wear the softened layer away. Instead, rinse with water and wait at least half an hour before brushing your teeth. Minerals from your saliva will have re-mineralized your teeth by then.
- Eating anything that is both acidic and hard can be especially tough on teeth. For example, eating raisins with almonds together. In fact, the acidic skin of blueberries softens your teeth and the little seeds wear that softened layer away.
There are other dental issues to consider too.
- Sense of Taste. Some seniors experience a diminished sense of taste. And while advancing age impairs the sense of taste naturally, some diseases and some medications can also contribute to a loss of taste. Dentures may also affect the sense of taste.
- Gum disease is caused by plaque and made worse by food left in teeth, use of tobacco products, poor-fitting bridges and dentures, poor diets, and certain diseases, such as anemia, cancer, and diabetes. This is often a problem for older adults. Gum disease is a leading cause of tooth loss.
- Darkened teeth are caused, to some extent, by changes in dentin. This is the bone-like tissue that underlies the tooth enamel. Teeth can be darkened by a long life of consuming stain-causing foods and drinks.
- Root decay is caused by exposure of the tooth root to decay-causing acids. The tooth roots become exposed as gum tissue recedes from the tooth. Roots do not have any enamel to protect them and are more prone to decay than the crown part of the tooth.
- Denture-induced stomatitis can result from poorly-fitting dentures, poor dental hygiene, or a buildup of the fungus Candida albicans. Candida albicans is the inflammation of the tissue underlying a denture. Diseases or drugs that affect the immune system can trigger the overgrowth of the fungus Candida albicans in the mouth.
If you think that your loved-one needs dental care please speak to your dentist for more information. If your loved-one is a resident at Villa Cathay please speak to your floor nurse.
Did You Know: That, in partnership with the School of Dentistry at UBC, Villa Cathay has its own in house dental office. Through this program, we are able to offer an exclusive service to our residents. We know that our families truly value this service because our seniors do not encounter the additional stress of a ride to an external dental office.
Did You Know: That dental services will be available to residents in our new 10-story tower in a purpose built facility. The Board of Directors and staff at Villa Cathay are grateful to our friends at UBC for their generosity and their support. We are also grateful for the ongoing financial support from our families and other donors.