Oral decay could be the next big threat to Australian over-60s, according to a Rockhampton dentist. Greg More, former Queensland president of the Australian Dental Association, has found an increasing number of aged care patients with poor oral hygiene, which, in severe cases, can lead to early death.
“Unfortunately, with the passage of time people are just no longer able to maintain their own mouths in the way that they used to,” Dr Greg Moore told the ABC. “Someone else needs to do it, and I've got no problem with nursing home staff — they are very heavily overworked as it is, and cleaning someone else's mouth, with natural teeth, is a very difficult process.”
According to Dr Moore, a large part of the problem is simply mobility – particularly aged care facilities in more rural areas. “The saddest cases are when people ring me and say, ‘our mother's dentures are just not fitting the way they used to, can you come and tighten them up for me,’” he explains. “I go in there and the reason their dentures don't fit it because the teeth that used to hold their partial dentures are now little black stumps on their gums. At this stage, they're unwell, they're poor anaesthetic risks, they're immobile and they're heavily medicated – it's just a complete medical nightmare.”
Adding to the already frightening situation, the soft, sweet foods regularly given to aged care patients are only contributing to decay. And, in most cases, those who have little control over their diet also have little control over their dental health.
To combat this, Dr Moore says more aged care homes need to engage regular dental services, though admits this could send the already-expensive care fees further up. “It's the cost of the person's health and wellbeing. How can you put a cost on that?”
Have you found this to be the case? Share your thoughts in the comments below.