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Dental and Oral Health (Seniors)

Common Signs of Dental Disease and Dry Mouth

Signs of Dental Disease

If the older adult is not brushing or flossing, and there seems to be no physical limitation to prevent this, perhaps tooth decay or gum disease is present. If the individual is able to cognitively understand your questions, ask if they are having mouth pain. Some indications of tooth or gum pain can be:

Picture of periodontal disease (courtesy of Case School of Dental Medicine)

Picture of periodontal disease (courtesy of Case School of Dental Medicine)

If the person has Alzheimer's or another form of dementia, he or she may not be able to tell you that there is pain. Caregivers - wearing protective gloves and if necessary, a surgical mask - can carefully examine the individual's mouth for some of the following signs:

 

Gum Disease
Caregivers can check the mouth of an older adult for visible signs of bleeding, red or swollen gums - common indications that a dentist should be consulted.

(Photo courtesy of OSU Section of Periodontology)

 

Dry Mouth

An older adult can experience problems with the teeth and gums (which can lead to or worsen tooth decay or gum disease) for many reasons.

Dry mouth - Constant or frequent dry mouth can be uncomfortable and can increase the chance of tooth decay and infections of the mouth. Over 400 common prescription and over-the-counter drugs are known to cause dry mouth. Sjogren Syndrome and some cancer therapies can also cause this.

Symptoms of dry mouth can be:

PillsA solution would be to check with your prescribing physician (or pharmacist for over-the-counter products) to see if medication(s) may be causing or contributing to dry mouth. The medication or dose may be changed to help ease the dry mouth.  Also, ask about artificial saliva products.

Other tips are:

 

Published with permission from Smiles For Seniors ... an oral health initiative of the Ohio Dental Association.

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Last Reviewed: Jun 27, 2014