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Oral Health Problems in Care Homes
Oral Health Problems in Care Homes

Most people who move to care homes do so because of either cognitive impairment (Dementia/Alzheimer’s/Mental health ) and/or mobility impairment.

As these conditions progress, a resident will become less able to maintain their self-care oral health regime, they may forget or be unable to. When oral care is not a priority, and twice-daily support from a carer is unavailable, deterioration can set in quickly. This can lead to anything from cavities to lost or ill-fitting dentures.

Causes of Oral Health Problems

Sugar – (Glucose) is a source of energy for the body and is therefore not removed from the diet in nursing homes. Some residents find it difficult to swallow and are therefore given sugary liquid medications. Diets can be carbohydrate-rich. However, sugar has a direct connection to tooth decay. After eating foods that contain sugar, its molecules combine with saliva and bacteria present in the mouth. This combination leads to plaque film on teeth.

Plaque – Plaque carries bacteria that can damage tooth enamel and lead to cavities. If you remove plaque regularly, you can prevent permanent tooth decay and gum disease. Bigger problems arise if plaque stays on your teeth and hardens into tartar. This can often take as little as 48 hours.

Tartar – is rough and porous and can lead to receding gums and gum disease. Once built up it can only be removed by a dentist/hygienist. Left unmanaged, tartar will lead to tooth decay. Which may start the cycle to more tooth loss.

Aspiration Pneumonia – Plaque and Tartar are bacteria, which when left in the oral cavity (on teeth or dentures) can affect swallowing and cause respiratory infections and aspiration pneumonia, especially in the elderly. This can be fatal.

Dentures – We often hear statements like ‘My Mum’s ok, she has dentures’. Dentures have many advantages but like anything else, they need to be maintained.

Outcome of Oral Health Problems

Self-esteem can take a dive when a denture wearer suddenly has no denture to wear. The person may look unhappy, never smile and can regress into themselves unwilling to speak. They may not even recognise their own reflection in the mirror as their jaws hollow.

Broken, ill-fitting, lost dentures make it difficult to eat, chew, swallow and often speech is impaired. This can affect nutritional intake, resulting in weight loss, loss of energy and further regression.

Weight loss will affect how dentures fit, and ill-fitting dentures can cause pain and mouth sores. Plaque can also form on dentures that are not cleaned regularly and properly, which when ingested can cause digestive issues.

Might a resident with poor oral health die sooner?

It’s hard to say as many conditions can be recognised early with oral health screening. Also, ingested plaque can cause issues. But what we do know is poor oral health will definitely impact anyone’s quality of life!

When the parent-child role reverses.

Help your loved ones to live with dignity. Don’t allow poor oral care to become a contributing factor in this not happening.

Call our Care Homes Team to find out about the many options that are available to your loved one in the comfort of their home or care home.

For care homes appointments and information nursinghome@dentaltech.ie 01 455 1866  www.dentaltech.ie 

Article by Saoirse O’Reilly, Customer Relationship Manager at Dental Tech Group

Quote: [1] Association between dental prosthesis need, nutritional status and quality of life of elderly subjects. Pillai RS, Mathur VP, Jain V, Shah N, Kalra S, Kumar P, Dey AB.

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