Print this topic

HealthInfo Waitaha Canterbury

Dental health in older people

Tiaki niho ā pakeke

Having a healthy mouth and teeth contributes to your overall health. Looking after your teeth by brushing twice a day and seeing your dentist regularly is an important part of looking after yourself and is even more important as you get older.

If you're caring for an older person, do not forget the contribution good dental health can make to their comfort, nutrition, health and wellbeing.

Common dental health issues in older people include:

If you have pain in your mouth, swelling or discomfort from your teeth, it's important to talk to your dentist or GP. Do not put it off. If you notice changes to the way your mouth and teeth feel or look, it's also important to seek treatment.

Preventing problems with your mouth and teeth

If you've had good dental habits all your life, it's important to keep it up. But it's never too late to develop better habits around dental hygiene.

Teeth cleaning

Brushing and flossing removes plaque and tartar from teeth to prevent gum disease and tooth decay. Severe gum disease causes at least one-third of adult tooth loss.

Denture care

It's important to care for your removable partial or full dentures:

Mouth ulcers

Mouth ulcers are small sores that develop in your mouth. These are quite common and usually go away on their own. If you have ulcers that are very painful, that are stopping you eating or drinking the foods you usually like, or that have lasted more than two weeks, it’s important to see your dentist or GP.

Regular dental check-ups

A yearly dental check-up can help maintain the health of your teeth and deal with problems at an early stage before they become severe. There are many things a dentist can spot during a dental check-up such as cavities, early signs of gum disease and other oral problems that can affect your general health.

Dental treatment can be expensive. But seeing a dentist for regular check-ups will save you a lot of money and trouble and will help to keep your teeth looking good and working well.

Subsidies for older people

Subsidies may be available to help pay for dental treatment. It’s important to discuss with your dentist how much any treatment is likely to cost and which subsidies you can use. You may be able to pay off the cost of treatment.

The Canterbury DHB funds emergency dental care for low-income adults. If you're in pain or have swelling or an infection in your mouth, subsidised emergency treatment is available through several private dentists for older people with a Community Services Card.

New Zealand residents over the age of 65 are able to attend the Relief of Pain Clinic at the Hospital Dental Service. Younger adults receiving a full WINZ benefit may also be eligible. Phone (03) 364-0250 to check if you're eligible. The Hospital Dental Service is at 2 Oxford Terrace.

  HealthInfo recommends the following pages

Written by HealthInfo clinical advisers. Last reviewed March 2022.

See also:

Carer's guide to mouth care

Dental care for adults

Dry mouth

Oral hygiene & saliva management

Subsidised dental care for adults on low incomes

Page reference: 549394

Review key: HILAT-75077