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Why dental health is vital for older people

Dental health is a crucial part of physical wellbeing for people of all ages, but it becomes increasingly important as we get older. Older people can often find it harder to maintain good oral health, making it a critical aspect of their overall health and quality of life.

  1. Supporting overall health

Many studies have found that good dental health is directly linked to overall health, with research finding that oral health problems can contribute to systemic health issues (World Health Organization, 2023). Poor dental health, including untreated tooth decay and gum disease, can lead to infections, inflammation, and even chronic conditions like cardiovascular disease and diabetes.

  1. Preventing tooth loss and resulting decline

As we age, the risk of tooth decay and gum disease increases, which can result in tooth loss if left untreated. In older people, tooth loss can impact their ability to chew and speak, resulting in functional decline.

  1. Eating well

Oral health plays a significant role in supporting proper nutrition, which is crucial for living a healthy life, particularly in older people. Dental problems, such as missing teeth, dental pain, or difficulty chewing, can limit food choices and lead to inadequate nutrition. This can contribute to malnutrition, lowered immune response, and various health problems.

  1. Maintaining cognitive function

New research suggests that poor oral health may be linked to cognitive decline (a common sign of which is memory loss) in older people (Gu et al., 2023; National Institute on Aging, 2021; Zhang et al., 2020) and an increased risk of conditions like Alzheimer's disease.

  1. Improving self-esteem and confidence

A healthy, attractive smile can boost self-esteem and confidence in people of all ages, and it can also enhance social interactions and relationships, ultimately contributing to a happier and more fulfilling life. Having dentures that fit properly can also avoid embarrassment and difficulties with communication.

  1. Preventing pain and discomfort

Untreated dental issues can result in toothaches, gum pain, and jaw discomfort and lead to chronic pain, which can be particularly challenging for older people with existing health conditions. Preventable pain can also be difficult for people with dementia, as they may not have the capacity to communicate their need to alleviate pain, and it can also lead to sleep disturbances, mood alterations, and an overall decrease in wellbeing.

Prioritising oral health through regular dental check-ups, good oral hygiene, and a healthy diet can significantly improve our residents’ overall wellbeing and quality of life.

Through its partnership with the Australian Dental Foundation (ADF) and the commitment of its site-based teams, Eldercare achieved more than five times the industry average of older people attending regular dental appointments in residential care as of September 2023.

Eldercare General Manager Wellbeing and Allied Programs Bernard Morrison said the organisation’s partnership with ADF allows residents to receive specialist services on-site.

“Access to dental services for older people can be limited by physical frailty, cognitive impairment, and comorbidities, but ADF’s mobile dental teams helps us to overcome these obstacles by routinely visiting all of our sites to provide specialist management of oral disease and related problems,” said Bernard.

“We are also excited to be a part of the ADF’s Smile Friendly Partnership, which promotes the importance of oral hygiene and regular dental check-ups for older people in residential care.”

To learn more about the ADF and their incredible work, visit their website at


World Health Organization. (2023). Oral health.

Gu, W., Li, J., Li, F., Ho, T-E., Feng, X., Wang, Y., Fan, M., Cui, M., Xu, K., Chen, X., Lu, H. & Jiang, Y. (2023). Association between oral health and cognitive function among Chinese older adults: the Taizhou imaging study. BMC Oral Health, (23).

National Institute on Aging. (2021, October 5). Tooth loss in older adults linked to higher risk of dementia.

Zhang, S., Yang, F., Wang, Z., Qian, X., Ji, Y., Gong, L., Ge, S. & Yan, F. (2020). Poor oral health conditions and cognitive decline: Studies in humans and rats. PloS one, 15(7).

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