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Dental care and mental care go hand in hand, according to developers behind a new smartphone app designed to educate caregivers for older adults about appropriate oral hygiene practices.

The app, Dental.Aging.Tips, is specifically designed for caregivers who are assisting older adults who are living with dementia. Both caregivers and the seniors’ family members who used the app felt much more confident and knowledgeable about helping with dental care, according to a recent study of the tool.

“Oral health has been consistently reported as inadequate among frail older adults especially for those living in nursing homes,” the study authors wrote. “This has predictably adverse consequences to their overall health and well-being. The results of the pilot test indicated that providing the App successfully increased caregivers’ oral health literacy and perceived ability to identify oral health problems.”

Older adults are more at risk than younger people of experiencing tooth decay and other oral diseases, and fully one-fourth of adults aged 75 or more years have lost all of their teeth, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 

In the recent past, the quality of oral health services in long-term care has varied depending on what state someone lives in, McKnight’s Senior Living has reported.

Due to heavy workloads and stressful routines, professional caregivers don’t always have the time or energy to attend formal training sessions on issues such as dental hygiene, the study authors noted.

Study participants said they appreciated the variety of photos and videos designed to help identify dental issues, and they appreciated the guidance, especially the criteria for when an actual dentist appointment was necessary, according to feedback in the course of the research.

Better oral hygiene is linked to better psychological well-being in older adults and helps prevent further cognitive decline, studies have shown.

Beyond caregiver training, mobile dental clinics are starting to catch on in Florida, and the company behind the business said it hopes to expand to other states soon, McKnight’s Senior Living reported in August.