Some senior citizens may feel discouraged about getting older. Growing old can affect your energy, physical abilities and sometimes cause health complications. Senior citizens can also have dental issues due to tooth loss and poor dental habits. If someone you care about needs help building his or her confidence, consider these top five tips on how dental care can help build self-esteem in seniors.
Above all: Be aware of the warning signs!
Disregarding simple dental hygiene tasks, such as brushing our teeth at least twice a day, can affect our overall disposition. Think about it, if someone is depressed about his or her living situation, physical appearance or aging in general, it can lead to personal hygiene neglect.Regardless of our age, we are all susceptible to dental problems, like cavities, gingivitis and periodontitis, if we neglect our teeth and gums.Ignoring dental and personal hygiene can lead to other medical problems. It’s important to find ways to help motivate a senior citizen who has neglected personal hygiene in order to improve his or her well-being.
What are common dental problems for depressed seniors?
As we grow older, paying special attention to our teeth and gums is essential. It’s common for seniors to have dental problems later in life because of a number of reasons. First, the teeth begin to shift as we grow older. Second, since many senior citizens take more medications, they are prone to dry mouth, which can impact teeth and gums due to less saliva in our mouths.
If it’s harder to get up and walk around, a senior may skip a trip to the bathroom to brush his or her teeth. This can lead to plaque buildup, which can damage teeth. If left untreated, it can result in cavities and infection. Seniors can also suffer from gum disease, called gingivitis, which if that is left untreated can lead to periodontitis. Periodontitis, also known as pyorrhea, is an inflammatory disease that affects the tissue that surround and support the teeth. It is caused by tiny microorganisms that adhere to and grow on the surface of the teeth causing aggressive damage to the surrounding tissue. Seniors who smoke or suffer from diabetes, are at a higher risk for gum disease.
A big concern with older people is losing teeth or hypodontia, which specifies people who are missing up to five or more teeth. Poor gums and infection may cause teeth to be removed and some seniors don’t make the effort to get dentures or dental implants to replace missing teeth. Yes, we can all live without our teeth. Seniors can adjust their diet and eat soft foods to avoid getting dentures. However, without stimulus, the jawbone can become imbalanced and cause the it to reduce in size and change the structure of the face.
How do you help a senior combat the problem?
Typical hygiene problems are bad breath, dirty nails, greasy hair, facial or nostril hair that needs trimming, chronic running nose, body odor, obvious yellow plaque on teeth and chapped skin. Pointing out personal hygiene problems to someone – anyone – regardless of his or her age, isn’t easy. If you have a friend or family member who needs help in this area, taking the time to talk about it just might be a life-changer for someone.
Telling a friend or family member that you care is a good start to the cleanliness conversation. There is no guarantee you won’t offend someone by telling that person about noticeable poor hygiene. But remember, if you don’t tell your senior friend about needing improvement, something as simple as chronic bad breath could become the root of a bigger health problem like, diabetes, kidney problems or periodontitis. Taking the time to inform a senior that you care and offering some tips might help improve his or her confidence.
Top 5 tips for improving dental care and boosting confidence:
- Promote independence. Getting someone to focus on his or her personal hygiene, life situation and self-image can be challenging, but many times, rewarding. If a senior doesn’t feel that he or she can’t do the simple things in life anymore, it can affect self-esteem. By helping someone feel empowered, we offer respect.
- Find a way to make brushing teeth easy. Whether you need to set up small bottles of filtered water, a spitting bowl, a towel, toothpaste, mouthwash and a toothbrush next to the bed, or clear a clean path to the bathroom, ensuring that it’s easy for a senior to brush his or her teeth at least twice a day will help improve dental health. You can also stick notes on the mirror with reminders to brush after every meal.
- Find a dentist and help schedule the appointment. If your senior friend or family member hasn’t been to the dentist in a while, it might be a good idea to help schedule an appointment. Find out what kind of dental insurance or plan the individual carries. If they don’t have dental coverage, be prepared to do the research to find the best option for dental care. Note: Medicare, the largest health insurance provider for adults 65+ does not provide coverage for routine dental care unless dental care and medical needs intersect because of a specific condition. Currently, 21 states offer comprehensive dental benefits via Medicaid.
- Accompany a senior to the dentist. Drive your senior to the appointment and be available for support. Learning what dental problems and solutions are available can help put a plan in motion. Whether a senior needs dentures or deep cleaning, it can help improve dental hygiene. You being at the dentist appointment can help a senior understand what’s at hand.
- Connect your senior with groups. Having a group of other senior friends available can help bring new routine to our lives. Getting a senior involved in weekly meetups, games and trips can help motivate someone to want to look and feel good.
Senior citizens have dental plan options, which can help save up to 60% on dental services from preventative care (x-rays, cleanings, checkups, sealants) to dentures. Unlike traditional dental insurance, dental savings plans don’t require filing of paper work and they do not place restrictions on existing conditions. There are no waiting periods or annual limits with a dental plan and you can start using a membership after you enroll.