The Caregiver’s Guide to Dental Health: Signs and Symptoms to Watch For

You may be providing care for older adults full time or only once in a while. Either way, you can help ensure that their mouths are cleaned every day and that they visit the dentist regularly. Daily care plus professional care equal the best chances for a healthy mouth.

Daily brushing and flossing help prevent tooth decay, gum disease and bad breath. It may also help you notice issues in the mouth early on, when they are easier to treat. If people have unhealthy mouths, other health problems may become worse. Here are a few things to watch for while caring for your loved one. 

Common issues to watch for

Daily brushing and flossing help prevent tooth decay, gum disease and bad breath. Other health problems may arise or become worse in a person whose mouth doesn’t receive the care it needs. 

Issues that may affect older people’s mouth care include: 

  • Cavities: Occur in the teeth of older adults, not just younger people
  • Dry Mouth: Increases the risk of tooth decay
  • Root Decay: May occur if gums recede and expose tooth roots to bacteria 
  • Gum Disease: Can affect dental and overall health
  • Broken teeth, partials or dentures: Can be painful and uncomfortable as well as a choking and a safety hazard.

Warning signs of dental problems

If the person shows any of the following signs, a dental visit is recommended:

  • Pain or swelling anywhere in the mouth, face and neck 
  • Sores, swelling or growths anywhere in the mouth
  • A change in the fit of dentures
  • Difficulty opening the mouth
  • Red, swollen, tender or bleeding gums
  • Gums that have pulled away from the teeth
  • Bad breath that doesn’t go away or becomes a daily concern
  • Pus between the teeth and gums
  • Dark or discolored spots on teeth
  • Loose or broken teeth

Tending to dental hygiene needs of your loved one can be a pleasant part of their care.  You can share any questions, concerns, or observations with your loved one’s dentist who may be able to help you better manage some of the challenges you may face.