Dental care matters at any age. However, for seniors there are a few additional considerations to keep in mind. Dental assistants often advise clients on how to take proper care of their teeth, and it’s important to know what additional advice is necessary for older clients to ensure that they’re maintaining good dental hygiene practices. Seniors may need to implement additional steps to their routine to work against years of natural wear and tear and to account for other effects that their age might have on their oral health.
If you’re considering becoming a dental assistant, read on for some tips on how to advise seniors on proper dental hygiene.
What a Registered Dental Assistant Needs to Know About the Effects of Aging on Teeth
As a dental assistant, it’s important to know what to look out for when advising seniors about caring for their teeth. For example, seniors can be at a greater risk of developing certain oral health problems, including dry mouth, worn enamel, darkened teeth, and gum disease.
Dry mouth can be more common among seniors because it is a side effect that comes with certain medications or conditions more often seen in older adults. It’s important to watch out for because it can lead to tooth decay, increased plaque, and gum disease. Darkened teeth is another common condition you might want to watch out for once you become a registered dental assistant. This is because the foods we eat throughout our lives can have an effect on our dentin and enamel levels as we age, resulting in stains and a change in colour over time. In addition, it’s important for seniors to watch out for gum disease and root decay. Gum disease is preventable with the help of proper oral hygiene practices. However, gums naturally recede as we get older to reveal more unprotected areas of the teeth. If a senior’s gums are receding, they might also be experiencing root decay, as exposed roots of the teeth can lead to increased decay with age. Additionally, receding gums could cause tooth sensitivity, as more areas go unprotected by enamel.
How to Advise Seniors on Dental Care
Part of the work that comes with dental assisting is informing people of how to properly care for their teeth. And, with the additional problems that seniors may face, this is especially important.
Advise seniors to keep going to the dentist regularly so that potential problems can be anticipated and caught early. They should also continue to brush and floss daily, especially after snacking or eating something sugary, as older teeth have less enamel and are more vulnerable to damage. Inform seniors of the benefits of using an antibacterial mouthwash in addition to brushing and flossing, as this can help to reduce the buildup of plaque. If brushing has become difficult for them due to arthritis, you can recommend an electric toothbrush, which is easier to use. In general, advise seniors to drink plenty of water, avoid alcohol, and avoid tobacco, which can increase the chances of gum decay and the development of mouth and throat cancer. All of these tips can help seniors to prevent frequent or more serious dental problems as they age.
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