Did you know that February is National Oral Health Month? When caring for a loved one, it is important not to neglect Oral health. Most people don’t realize that poor dental health not only impacts the health of our mouth, but also impacts our overall health. Some common conditions to watch out for include gum disease, sensitive teeth, and dry mouth. Dry mouth is a condition we wanted to emphasize because it is not a normal part of aging. However, it is often caused by many prescription and over-the-counter medications taken for other medical issues that become more prevalent as we grow older, including those taken for Alzheimer’s disease. Due to the lack of saliva in the mouth, dry mouth can result in cavities or tooth and root decay, which can then lead to infections, gum disease, and tooth loss. Some of the common symptoms of dry mouth include a sticky, dry feeling in the mouth and/or throat; frequent thirst; bad breath; cracked lips or corners of the mouth; burning or tingling feeling on the tongue; and sore throat and hoarseness. It may also make it more difficult to eat, taste food, and talk. The American Dental Association (ADA) has provided some common recommendations that one can do to prevent dry mouth symptoms and cavities from occurring:
- Use over-the-counter moisturizers, such as a spray or mouthwash
- Consult with your physician on whether to change the medication or dosage
- Drink more water. Carry a water bottle with you, and don’t wait until you’re thirsty to drink. Your mouth needs constant lubrication.
- Use sugar-free gum or lozenges to stimulate saliva production.
- Get a humidifier to help keep moisture in the air.
- Avoid foods and beverages that irritate dry mouths, like coffee, alcohol, carbonated soft drinks, and acidic fruit juices.
When caring for a loved one, there are two critical things you can do to help them maintain a healthy mouth, including: helping them keep their mouth clean by brushing and flossing daily and making sure they are seeing a dentist for regular check-ups. It is crucial that we continue to take care of our mouth and teeth throughout our lives. To learn more about oral health concerns, visit the website: http://www.mouthhealthy.org/en/adults-over-60/concerns