What to Expect When a Loved One Is Experiencing Oral Health Problems

old man brushing his teeth

Recognizing the Signs of Oral Health Problems in Seniors

How to Help a Senior Prioritize Their Oral Health

This winter, McGregor is tackling the ten most common health issues related to aging for Cleveland seniors. If you are visiting our blog for the first time, you may want to read our past posts on the first two issues: cognitive decline and trouble with balance. Be sure to check back regularly to read future posts from McGregor that will help you better understand the signs of common senior health issues and help your loved one navigate the next steps.

When an older adult is experiencing oral health problems, all aspects of their life can suffer as a result. That’s because our oral health is linked closely to our general health. Oral health issues can negatively affect a senior’s well-being and the aging process. For example, oral pain may lead to difficulty with eating, which can impact nutrition. If a senior is in constant pain due to mouth soreness or a neglected gum or tooth issue, they are also more likely to be in an irritable or sad mood or avoid social activities.


What is oral health? 

Oral health includes the lips, tongue, gums, tissues, saliva, teeth, and dentures. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), these are the most common oral health issues in older adults: 

  • Untreated tooth decay (common in 1 in 5 seniors)
  • Gum disease (affecting about 2 in 3 adults aged 65 years or older)
  • Tooth loss
  • Oral cancer
  • Chronic disease

While some oral health issues become more prevalent with age, many are due to neglect. Unfortunately, as seniors age, it can be easy for them to lose focus on their oral health. They may stop scheduling regular visits to their dentist or forget to brush their teeth. This is why it is so important for caregivers and family members to look closely for signs of an oral health issue.


What are the signs of an oral health issue?

If a senior is experiencing pain in their mouth, they may hesitate or refuse to open their mouth for you to take a look or to assist with brushing or flossing their teeth. They may be in obvious pain, rubbing their cheeks or jaw. Or the change might be more subtle: You may notice they are not eating their normal diet and choosing only to eat soft foods. 

Caregivers should pay close attention to the following signs:

  • Sores or cracks at the corners of the mouth
  • Swollen, inflamed, or coated areas on the tongue
  • Swollen gums that bleed when brushed
  • Bad breath
  • Dry mouth


Treatment and Prevention of Oral Health Issues for Seniors

If your senior has an obvious oral health concern, the best thing you can do is to make an appointment with a dental professional for an oral health assessment and a cleaning. You can also encourage steps to promote their future oral health. Encourage seniors to:

  • Brush their teeth, gums, and tongue in the morning and at night
  • Floss regularly
  • Clean their dentures regularly (using mild soap)
  • Cut down on their sugar intake
  • Prioritize regular dental cleanings



McGregor Supports Seniors and Their Families

Helping You Promote Your Loved One’s Total Well-Being

If a senior’s oral health is failing, their general health can also fail. When an elderly loved one is unable to care for their teeth and general oral health, it may be time to consider moving to an Assisted Living facility. Our senior care professionals at McGregor provide a safe environment where each senior’s total well-being is promoted and prioritized, including their oral health. Please reach out to our team to learn more.

Contact McGregor