Are those worn down teeth any good?

Lee Wareham

Teeth are important to us at any time of our lives. If you are caring for elderly family members, please ensure that their teeth and oral cavity are checked regularly. It is recommended that 6 monthly check-ups are arranged for elderly patients.

Dr Neil Peppitt, president of the NSW branch of the Australian Dental Association has the following words for us to ponder; “The health of a society is gauged by how we look after those who can’t look after themselves”. He further explained that there is no oral health component in GP medical health assessments for people aged 75 years and older. Aged Care Assessment Teams are not required to consider a patient’s dental health before they engage in a home care program or enter a residential aged-care facility.

How does pain affect us?

Oral pain can lead to a person being unable to eat properly. This can lead to prolonged toothaches, dental abscess, gum disease and general deterioration of health. Malnutrition is directly associated with an increased risk of infection, decrease in coordination and higher chance of falls. Untreated oral diseases can increase the risk of contracting life-threatening conditions like pneumonia and cardio-vascular diseases. Gum disease has been proven to exacerbate diabetes. Dental pain can affect sleep quality. All these are particularly detrimental if an elderly person is unable to communicate dental pain.

We have to maintain a good quality of life for our older family members, the best we can. We will concentrate on preventative care almost exclusively, rather than complicated treatment. Even if dentures are being used, it is good to have a few natural teeth to keep the dentures. The aim is to keep dental health to a good standard so that comfort is attained, in function and at rest.

Preventative dental care is something that is extremely worthwhile for all of us. This is particularly true for all of us during the latter years of our lives.