Oral Hygiene can Lower Risk of Aspiration Pneumonia
Dr. Nathan Suter, DDS.
As we age, our immune system weakens, making us more susceptible to infections and illnesses. One common condition that affects frail elders is aspiration pneumonia, which is caused by inhaling food, liquid, or other substances into the lungs. This can happen when someone has difficulty swallowing, such as those with dysphagia or other neurological conditions. Aspiration pneumonia is a serious condition that can be life-threatening, especially for frail elders. However, proper oral hygiene can reduce the risk of aspiration pneumonia in these individuals.
The mouth is home to millions of bacteria, which can cause infections if they enter the lungs. Frail elders may have poor oral hygiene due to physical limitations, cognitive impairment, or both. This can lead to a buildup of bacteria and other pathogens in the mouth, which can increase the risk of aspiration pneumonia.
To reduce the risk of aspiration pneumonia, caregivers should prioritize oral hygiene for frail elders. This includes:
- Brushing teeth twice a day: Caregivers should help elders brush their teeth twice a day using a soft-bristled toothbrush and fluoride toothpaste. This can help remove bacteria and food particles from the mouth, reducing the risk of infection.
- Flossing daily: Flossing can help remove food particles and bacteria from between the teeth, which can also reduce the risk of infection.
- Using mouthwash: Mouthwash can help kill bacteria in the mouth and freshen breath. However, caregivers should check with a healthcare professional to make sure the mouthwash is safe to use for the elderly.
- Regular dental checkups: Elders should visit the dentist regularly for checkups and cleanings. This can help identify and treat any oral health problems before they become more serious.
In addition to these steps, caregivers should also encourage elders to stay hydrated and avoid foods that are difficult to swallow. Soft, pureed, or finely chopped foods can be easier to swallow, reducing the risk of aspiration.
At Enable Dental, we believe that every patient deserves access to high-quality dental care, regardless of their mobility or location. That’s why we bring our services directly to our patients, whether they are at home or in a care facility. We do so by bringing a team of dental care professionals to the individual’s residence and delivering the best care possible. Our services include comprehensive dental care ranging from cleanings and fillings to extractions and dentures. By providing these services, we can help reduce the risk of aspiration pneumonia and other oral health complications for older adults.
By delivering on-site and at-home dental care, we can assist in the delicate care needed to maintain a high quality of life for patients that are at risk of aspiration pneumonia. We are proud to be an essential partner in the overall healthcare management of older adults, and we look forward to continuing to serve our patients with the highest standards of care.
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There are many wives’ tales and myths surrounding dental health and oral hygiene, so here are a few facts to keep the record straight. It can be surprising to see the statistics on dental care and to recognize that your own habits contribute to these numbers!