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News / September 16, 2008

Prescription drugs ‘link’ to tooth decay

by Guy Hiscott

More attention needs to be paid to the oral health of the elderly and whether prescription drugs lead to tooth decay, dental hygienists in California have said.

‘Too many seniors are not receiving the care they need, and that number will reach a crisis point if we don’t make plans now,’ said Noel Kelsch, president of the California Dental Hygienists’ Association, based in Glendale.

Nursing home patients and the homebound not only have difficulty visiting dental clinics but they often miss basic daily oral care, and many elderly cannot care for themselves due to paralysis or memory loss, the Association said.

Lack of care can result in tooth decay, gum disease and loss of teeth, which can adversely impact eating and can lead to malnutrition as well as a decline in overall health.

‘People don’t realize how poor oral health can contribute to the downward spiral in the mental and physical health of our parents and grandparents,’ said Kelsch.

The president of the California Dental Hygienists’ Association offers the following advice:
• Learn ways to maintain oral health
• Realize that more than 400 commonly prescribed medications and medical conditions can cause xerostomia, known as dry mouth, which contributes to tooth decay
• Check your loved one’s teeth for obvious signs of decay or inflammation. Prompt them to be effective with daily oral home care
• Try to use products containing xylitol – a natural ingredient used in toothpaste, mouthwash, chewing gums and breath mints – which helps prevent tooth decay.