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Oral Health For 65+ Year Olds

New Zealand has an ageing population with more elderly people who are living longer. The 65+ group now make up one in eight of all New Zealanders.

A growing proportion of older people aged 75 years and over, who are frail, dependant and in failing health. Many of these frail older people have their own teeth but may not be able to care for themselves. Increasing frailty, medical problems, reliance on medications, decreasing income and dependency on others for help may lead to rapid tooth decay, gum disease and loss of their teeth.

Much of this deterioration can be avoided with good oral health care such as regular and careful brushing with fluoridated toothpaste. This is why the role of the caregiver is so important in providing simple and consistent oral health care for frail and dependant older people. Simple actions can prevent much misery.

The World Health Organisation suggests that populations should retain a minimum of 20 natural teeth for life. This must be considered on an individual basis and an Oral Care Plan should balance the condition of existing teeth against the practicality of maintaining them. Retaining one’s natural teeth contributes to maintaining an older person’s quality of life for the following reasons:

  • Eating – Ongoing ability to chew allows a person to enjoy the taste and texture of food, which encourages older people to eat well and get the nutrients they need for good health
  • Speech - Teeth help maintain clear speech
  • Appearance – Teeth are important for one’s appearance, which helps maintain selfesteem
  • Health – The health of a person’s mouth will impact on the overall health of the person (bacteria or infections in the mouth can lead to other health related issues)
  • Healthy jaw bones – Maintaining natural teeth help maintain strong jaw bones, which are necessary to support dentures, should they be needed. Continuing good oral hygiene is the most certain method of maintaining healthy natural teeth.

Dentures

Just like natural teeth, your dentures need cleaning morning and night. Clean dentures help keep the tissues in your mouth healthy and free from unfavourable changes. Your dentures have been fabricated using high quality materials and it is extremely important that you provide them proper care to get the best service from them. 

Taking care of partial dentures

  1. Clean the denture daily using a "soft denture brush" and warm water. The use of non-abrasive denture cream is suggested. Regular toothpastes are not recommended for daily use. They may abrade and contribute to the loss of luster of the denture teeth and base.
  2. Clean your natural teeth thoroughly with a toothbrush, toothpaste, special toothpicks, or inter-dental brushes to remove plaque. Do not forget to gently brush the parts of the gums that are covered by the denture.
  3. You should not wear your partial denture overnight.

Taking care of complete dentures

  1. Rinse your denture and your mouth without the denture with water after every meal.
  2. Clean the denture daily using a "soft denture brush" and warm water. The use of non-abrasive denture cream is suggested. Regular toothpastes are not recommended for daily use. They may abrade and contribute to the loss of luster of the denture teeth and base.
  3. Carefully brush the inter-dental spaces and the inner surfaces of the denture which come in contact with the mucous membrane, for about two minutes. In addition, clean the tongue and palate with a soft brush.
  4. After brushing thoroughly rinse the denture under running water.
  5. You should not wear your denture over night. This enables the tissue supporting the denture to recover.
  6. You should keep your denture in water when you are not wearing it. Complete dentures may be immersed in a commercial denture cleaning solution.
  7. Rinse the denture under running water before wearing it.

 Common Oral Health Problems

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