Sweet treats are one of the biggest issues for the health of older people and Australia’s largest dental charity is calling for a rethink on Mother’s Day gifts.
“We all know sugar is not the best thing for our teeth but it can have devastating consequences for people in aged care because they have bigger challenges in looking after their teeth,” according to Australian Dental Foundation (ADF) chairman and clinical ambassador Dr Greg Miller.
“The biggest issue is a tendency for families and next of kin to bring chocolates, sweet biscuits, and other sugary foods when they visit their family member.
“This is a lovely and caring thing, and it comes from a good place.
“But it’s like bringing them a pack of cigarettes,” Dr Miller said.
ADF provides mobile oral health services and education to thousands of Australians in aged care across SA, Victoria and NSW, no-out-of-pocket dental care for schools and donates its services to other vulnerable groups, such as the homeless through Baptist Care and Lutheran Care.
Dr Miller says oral health becomes more complicated in aged care because people have less dexterity to clean their own teeth, they often take multiple medications than can cause issues such as Xerostomia (dry mouth) and oral health is not necessarily well understood.
“So one of our main focuses is to emphasise to families, next of kin, and individuals that visit aged care facilities to socialise and interact without bringing things like chocolates and sweet biscuits because of the impacts they can have on the individual’s oral health.”
Dr Miller suggests flowers, low-sugar cakes or other gifts that won’t add to the health issues of their loved one.
Poor oral health, decay and gum disease in older people have been shown to contribute to other conditions, such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes, pain and mental health issues, weight loss, rheumatoid arthritis, and certain cancers.
Dr Miller urged people to check if their aged care facility provided access to dental services and that staff understand the importance of oral health and daily care.
“Clinicians are seeing more extensive dental disease in aged care than in previous years,” Dr Miller said. “It’s a bleak situation for some individuals in aged care, but it’s a real one.”
“We want to shine a light on it through the foundation’s work and be part of the solution.”
For more information and how to access mobile dental care in residential facilities, go to www.dentalfoundation.org.au