Christmas is the perfect time of year to catch up with your long-distance relatives that you barely get the chance to see anymore.
With many seeing loved ones for the first time in a while, changes can be more stark than if they were to see them every day.
The festive period presents itself as a good opportunity for you to look at your loved-ones teeth, dentists claim.
Watching older family members to see if they have struggle speaking or eating may help to flag up any potentially dangerous oral problems.
The suggestion, made by the Faculty of Dental Surgery, could tackle rising rates of dental pain, oral sepsis and extensive decay, it claims.
Christmas is the perfect time of year to catch up with your long-distance relatives that you barely get the chance to see anymore
The body issued a report earlier this year that found almost two million British adults over the age of 65 require urgent dental treatment.
This figure is projected to soar by more than 50 per cent by 2040 as the population ages – despite improvements in oral care.
Dental problems, which can cause severe pain and problems speaking, are also linked to malnutrition or pneumonia in older people.
While a body of research shows links between gum disease, caused by poor oral hygiene, to heart disease, diabetes and arthritis.
Professor Michael Escudier, dean of the FDS, was aware that some people ‘may not feel comfortable’ looking into their relatives’ mouths.
He claimed signs of poor oral health can be easily noticed by checking if someone isn’t able to eat or speak properly.
‘Christmas is traditionally about spending time with family, friends and loved ones over a turkey dinner,’ Professor Escudier added.
‘We would like to urge families to use this time to check up on their older relatives’ oral health.
‘By looking out for any signs of oral health problems, families can ensure dental problems can be identified earlier, and potentially prevent the need for expensive and complex dental treatment in the future.
‘It will also mean that come Christmas next year, the best meal of the year will not be marred by tooth pain.’
WHAT ARE THE TOP FIVE TIPS?
1. Keep an eye on whether older relatives are eating and speaking comfortably – if they are having trouble with this, it might be a sign that they have an oral health problem.
2. See if older relatives need help to brush their teeth – if they do, mention this to their carer or a person who looks after them regularly, and ask if they can help.
3. Check when older relatives are due to have their next dental check-up – if this is overdue, think about booking this in for them in the New Year.
4. Ask older relatives whether their mouth often feels dry – this can be a side-effect of certain types of medication, as well as some medical conditions and can have an impact on oral health. Sipping water and other non-sugary drinks throughout the day, rinsing with water after meals and keeping water by the bedside are all simple ways of dealing with a dry mouth.
5. If an older relative is going to come and visit, make sure they bring their dentures. You should also make sure they have a pot or small container, labelled with their name, to put these in when they are not using them – this helps to prevent dentures from getting lost.