Dentists urge old people to take care of their teeth

As we age, oral health plays bigger role in overall health: Study.

Washington: Dental and medical experts suggest elderly people to be more vigilant about their health: oral health as it is a critical component to overall health. In a review article published in the journal of the American Geriatrics Society the authors outlined the potential complications that can arise from poor oral hygiene in older adults and cited the role of all health care professionals in working to promote good oral hygiene in this population.

"All health care professionals should work to promote good oral hygiene for their older patients," said Dr Patrick Coll, professor of family medicine and medicine at the UConn School of Medicine and lead author of the review article. They "should consider an oral examination during an annual wellness visit, especially for those patients who are not receiving regular dental care."

The need is evident, said the authors. Data from the National Centre for Health Statistics indicates that the prevalence of cavities is more than twice as high in older adults as for younger adults. The prevalence of periodontitis a serious gum infection that damages the soft tissue and destroys the bone that supports your teeth also increases with age. As many as 64 per cent of older adults in the US have periodontitis.

It is well recognised that manipulation of teeth and their support structures can result in bacteria present in the oral cavity being released into the bloodstream, which may lead to infections in parts of the body far removed from the oral cavity, they wrote. "Even toothbrushing for those who have poor oral hygiene can cause bacteria to be released into the bloodstream and these bacteria can potentially cause joint infections and heart valve infections," said Coll.

Without good oral hygiene, the use of fluoride, and regular dental care, older adults are more prone to damage to the oral cavity and the extension of infection into surrounding tissues. Tooth loss, for instance, can affect a person's ability to chew, which can lead to malnutrition. Chronic oral infection is a recognized risk factor for heart disease, and can also lead to the spread of infection to artificial joints and endocardial implants. The experts recommended that all older adults should have biannual dental cleaning performed by a hygientist and a biannual oral health assessment by their dentist.

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