7 June 2017

Poor Diet Impacting Elderly Dental Health

The Irish Dental Association (IDA) has found that a combination of sugar, bad diets and a lack of dental care treatment are having a impact on nursing home patients across Ireland, with as many as 20 teeth being extracted. The Vice President of the IDA, Dr. Anne Twomey, has said that the situation isn't helped by the culture of 'giving gifts of sweets and soft drinks' as patients fail to address their dental needs. Dr. Twomey went on to reveal that although patients may have managed to keep their teeth into their old age, they can often lose them in as little as three months.

"Very often the situation has reached crisis proportions by the time I’m called in and I have to take out 15 to 20 teeth over a short period of time."

The matter is further exacerbated by the fact that our most vulnerable citizens have little to no control over their daily lives, meaning they often have limited access to oral hygiene. In one case, Dr. Twomey discovered a woman who hadn't had her teeth brushed in two years. It's an issue that has been raised before, with the Irish Dental Hygienists Association (IDHA) calling for more accessibility for dental services for the elderly. Dr. Grace Kelly argued that; ‘We need to start thinking laterally [...] thinking about neck mobility, chair posture, toothbrush grip, wheelchair access, mobility impairment, communication problems.

‘The quality of life for elderly people because of bad oral health is incredibly poor. Some have a poor self-image because of dentures and won’t leave the house. Some can’t get drive or get taxis and struggle with dental anxiety and communication problems, but they fiercely independent. How can they then go to the dentist?’

‘These patients did not reach old age with their original teeth on a high-sugar diet,’ she said. ‘As well as carefully monitoring the intake of high-sugar food supplements, family and carers should be encouraged to provide low-sugar treats. Patients’ bedrooms often resemble a sweet shop and this will require a cultural change'.

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