As we age we become more prone to tooth decay and infections of the gums. If dental infections go undetected or ignored, the consequences are not small.
Cavities, gum disease, and decay of tooth roots are painful, and expensive to fix. (Medicare does not cover dentistry!) Loss of teeth can result in poor nutrition and social isolation if your loved one is embarrassed. And, gum disease and tooth loss have been linked to serious conditions such as diabetes, heart disease, stroke, and cancer.
Here's what to look for as potential signs of dental disease.
- Pain. Sore gums and teeth are an indication of infection. If your loved one has dementia, he or she may not be able to tell you about mouth pain. Watch during meals for grimacing or problems with chewing.
- Breath that routinely smells bad. This can indicate an overgrowth of bacteria.
- Filmy or stained teeth. Oral bacteria coat the teeth in a sticky "plaque." These bacteria produce acids that cause tooth and root decay.