If you're a caregiver for an elderly parent, you have a lot of concerns with keeping your parent healthy and comfortable. One thing you don't want to overlook is dental care. Older people are often more susceptible to dental problems, and when infections set in, they can cause pain and other medical problems. That's why dental exams so important, even for the elderly. Here are some of the problems your parent may develop that a dentist can detect.
Anyone of any age can develop oral cancer, but it is more common among the elderly population. Your parent may not be aware of mouth changes such as lumps and sores that signal the growth of cancer. A dentist not only inspects the teeth, he or she also assesses the health of the gums and looks for signs of oral cancer so treatment can begin early.
Dry mouth is a big problem for older people. Part of the reason is that the elderly don't make as much saliva. Another reason is dehydration is common in the elderly which can reduce the fluids needed for an ample supply of saliva. In addition, many medications list dry mouth as a possible side effect, and many elderly people take multiple medications daily. The problem with dry mouth is that it enhances tooth decay. Saliva is needed to keep the teeth and gums moist and to wash away bacteria. Without enough saliva, bacteria grow more readily and that leads to tooth decay. A dry mouth can even make swallowing more difficult, which can be a danger for an elderly person. A dentist can tell through an examination if dry mouth is a problem and prescribe methods for treating it such as artificial saliva or medications that increase saliva production.
If your parent doesn't eat very well, it could be due to dentures that no longer fit. They may be so loose that chewing is difficult or they may not be aligned properly and cause mouth sores. Your parent should have dentures checked periodically to make sure they still fit properly. A dentist can check for mouth sores and other signs of ill-fitting dentures and repair them or make new dentures so your parent has the ability to chew and eat a healthy diet. Eating enough nutrient rich calories each day is important to maintaining good health as your parent ages.
In addition to these common problems, your parent's dentist will also oversee the health of your parent's teeth and gums. Gum disease or infected teeth have a negative impact on your parent's overall health. They might even make chewing painful, which causes your parent to eat less. Fillings, crowns, and other treatments may still be necessary, even into the golden years if your parent doesn't have dentures, so seeing a dentist and having dental cleanings as long as your parent can tolerate it is important for good health.
For more information, contact establishments like Beck Pearce Dental.