European study says oral health care for the elderly deserves attention

Nov 18th, 2013

A recent study from the Netherlands has found that advancements in dentistry have increased the possibility that older adults will live longer, indicating that continuous oral health care for these individuals is necessary.

The study, led by Dr. Gert-Jan van der Putten, studied the ramifications of poor oral health on the elderly, and how that affects their general health.

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The study concluded that more adults are retaining their natural teeth well into old age, and that the number of individuals who are missing teeth has gone down due to advancements in oral health treatment and care.

However, older adults are more likely to ignore dental hygiene or are unable to keep their mouths clean due to frailty. Insufficient oral care can lead to dental problems, which can lead to higher risk for conditions such as heart disease and diabetes.

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Many elderly people require constant or near-constant care because they are no longer able to take care of themselves, and thus reside in long-term care facilities. While most people know that these elderly people require help with dressing, mobility, memory, and simple everyday tasks, they also are often not able to brush their teeth or take care of their oral health.

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The researchers found that in these long-term care facilities, nurses and nurse assistants are often not aware of the importance of maintaining their patients’ oral health. They deduced that if improvements in oral care for the elderly aren’t made, oral disease and related conditions will become a severe problem.

To combat this decline in the oral health of the elderly, the researchers concluded that oral health "deserves significant attention of national and international politicians, policymakers, scientists and health care providers."

Increasing access to oral health care for the elderly is important as the Baby Boomers have begun reaching retirement age — it won’t be long before a significant portion of the American population is over 65.

For more information, read the whole article here.

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