Oral care in elderly 'deserves significant attention,' study finds

Published by NBC News
November 8, 2013
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NEW YORK (Reuters) - Advancements in dentistry make it more likely that older adults will keep their teeth longer, which means ongoing oral health care is essential, a new study says. Unfortunately, it's not unusual for the frail and elderly to have poor oral hygiene.

"Although during recent years increasing attention has been given to improving oral health care for frail old people, there is ample evidence showing that the oral health of elderly people, in particular of care home residents, is (still) poor," researchers wrote in the journal European Geriatric Medicine.

Dr. Gert-Jan van der Putten and colleagues reviewed the consequences of poor oral health and its impact on the general health of frail, elderly people. Van der Putten is with the Flemish-Netherlands Geriatric Oral Research Group in Nijmegen, the Netherlands. He was not available for an interview.

"Advances in oral health care and treatment in the past few decades have resulted in a reduced number of (toothless) individuals and the proportion of adults who retain their natural teeth until late in life has increased substantially," the authors said in the article.

But when elderly people ignore their dental hygiene or are unable to keep their mouths clean, health problems can ensue. Plus, reduced saliva production and certain medications increase the risk of oral problems, the researchers said.

The main dental consequences of poor oral care include cavities, gum disease and problems with implanted teeth.

Oral health also has an impact on health in general. Mouth problems have been tied to a higher risk of diabetes, lung conditions and heart disease.

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