Better dental care can reduce cases of pneumonia

By MANDEEP SINGH Gulf Daily News

BETTER dental care among the elderly, especially in nursing homes, could reduce cases of a particular type of pneumonia, according to experts.

Health Ministry dental hygiene specialist Jameela Ali said aspiration pneumonia was an infection that occurs after bits of food or stomach contents are inhaled into the lungs.

"Good dental health is vital for everyone because a healthy mouth is important for speaking, chewing, and overall health," she said.

"This is why it is essential that all older adults receive good dental health care on a daily basis."

"It is important for the caretakers of older family members or older patients to learn what techniques will provide them with the best dental care."

Hygiene

She said this care is particularly important for those who use dentures.

"Each morning, before dentures are placed in the mouth, it is important that the gums and roof of the mouth be gently brushed with toothpaste to remove plaque and stimulate the gums," she said.

"The tongue should be scrapped for fresher breath and the dentures are to be cleaned daily to remove plaque, food and to prevent staining."

Ministry dental hygiene specialist Ehlam Al Arayyed added that older adults could lower their risk of developing oral infections by chewing a sugarless, medicated gum as well.

"Poor oral hygiene among elderly adults can lead to debris-covered dentures and tooth decay, which can in turn affect overall health," she said.

Ms Al Arayyed said high levels of dental plaque, along with a type of oral infection called thrush, could lead to serious illness elsewhere in the body.

"We know the teeth are just an area that tends to be overlooked in nursing homes," she said.

It is often left to the residents to clean their mouth, and they just ignore it, added the expert.

"People with dementia or other conditions that impair their mental status, or those who can't easily move their hands, are especially likely to have dental problems," said Ms Al Arayyed.

She said nursing homes should assign and educate specific staff members, preferably nurse's aides, to do some actual tooth brushing for people who can't brush their own teeth.

"Additionally, they should encourage the use of a mouthwash, such as chlorhexidine, which can kill some harmful organisms in the mouth," said Ms Al Arayyed