Tuesday, October 26, 2021

The bite that matters

Good dental health is much more than just teeth and gums – it can affect your entire body, explains Dr. Rajeev Narvekar 

Elderly people in the past fifty years composed a relatively small proportion of the population, but not so anymore. Now that people are living longer, they have an expectation that dentistry will last longer, too. Dentists are finding more concerns with other systematic diseases that they have not realized have an impact on dental health, and where dental health has an impact on overall health. Therefore, the treatments that clinicians offer their patients must be created by developing an entire wellness philosophy. From the dentist’s point of view, aging or geriatric patients offer many more significant challenges in trying to help them maintain either their existing dentitions or to create suitable replacements so that they maintain their quality of life.

The mouth is the gateway to the digestive system. Chewing difficulty makes people shun foods that they can’t swallow easily, and those foods are often ones with fiber and essential nutrients such as fruits and vegetables. Sometimes people gravitate towards softer processed foods, which are often laden with sugar. On the flip side, some people stop eating enough and lose weight.

Senior dental problems can be common from dry mouth to periodontal diseases and since oral health impacts the health of the rest of the body, these issues need to be taken seriously.


Research shows that there is a connection between gum diseases and heart diseases, people with periodontal disease are almost twice as likely to have coronary artery disease or heart diseases.


Poor oral health has been linked to pneumonia in older adults. By breathing in bacterial droplets from the mouth to the lungs seniors are more susceptible to the conditions. Good oral hygiene is a good way to combat these bacteria.


Severe gum disease hinders the body’s ability to use insulin. High blood sugar which is an effect of diabetes can lead to gum infection. Good oral care can help prevent this condition.


Gum disease is caused by plaque and food left in your teeth in addition to the use of tobacco products and unhealthy diets. Gum disease can instigate tooth loss and can be serious for overall health.


Dry mouth can be an effect of taking medications and radiation to the head and neck area. Saliva keeps the mouth wet, which protects teeth decay and prevents infection by controlling bacteria, viruses and fungi in the mouth. So having a dry mouth can pose a problem.


Caused by tooth root exposure to acids from food, root decay is very common in the elderly. As the roots become exposed gum tissue recedes from the tooth, the root does not have enamel protection and makes them prone to decay.

Good habits

Follow these guidelines to improve senior dental care:

  • Brush twice a day using a toothbrush with soft bristles and a fluoride-containing toothpaste
  • Clean your teeth once a day with floss or any other interdental cleaner
  • Rinse with an antiseptic mouthwash once or twice a day
  • If you wear full or partial dentures, remember to clean them on a daily basis
  • Eat a healthy, well-balanced diet that includes dairy and high fiber foods


Besides putting you at greater risks for lung and other cancers, smoking increases problems with gum diseases, tooth decay, and tooth loss.

Dr Rajeev Narvekar
Dr Rajeev Narvekar is a prosthodontist and implant specialist. He has taught and published in the US and India, and is the Head of the Department of the Centre for Advanced Dentistry, Breach Candy Hospital, Mumbai.

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