The Need For Better Geriatric Dental Care

The oral health care needs of our elderly population have been overlooked for far too long.  Fortunately, dedicated professionals are finding ways to both improve quality of life and reduce the risk of serious oral health issues.  Read on to learn how these new developments are affecting the complex field of geriatric dental care.

 

Thanks to major medical breakthroughs, life expectancies are higher than ever before.  But with people living well into their eighties, nineties, and even hundreds, dental health professionals are seeing a rise in infections and diseases that directly affect patients’ mouths and teeth1.

While many elderly people used to rely on dentures, it is more common than ever for them to retain their natural teeth well into old age.  This can be seen as a positive, given that it is the result of improved education and more focus on healthy habits.  However, it does introduce a new set of challenges2.  These can include:

 

Dry Mouth

This is of the most common side effects of many medications.  Not just a mere discomfort, this condition is known to create an environment where plaque and bacteria can thrive.

 

Cavities

 Access to proper nutrition causes several issues amongst the elderly, one of them being an increased susceptibility to cavities.  Sugary jellos and puddings should ideally be avoided and replaced with soft fruits and vegetables, but that isn’t always an option.

 

Serious Diseases Related To Periodontitis

 There is a large body of evidence suggesting that gum disease leaves patients more vulnerable to serious issues including diabetes and heart disease.  Considering that increased age is also a contributing factor, these findings can be worrisome.  They should serve as a reminder that dental care is essential for proper health, especially among the elderly.

There are many impediments to senior dental care.  Reduced mobility, a lack of transportation options, and a general sense of apathy can be a dangerous combination.  It is even believed that poor oral healthcare can be a contributing factor to Alzheimer’s Disease, which of course, nearly exclusively affects the elderly population.

Fortunately, increased knowledge and resources are helping to remedy this issue.  Dental professionals should be vigilant in making sure that their patients of all ages understand the importance of a healthy mouth.

 

References

  1. Issrani, Dr. Rakhi. “Geriatric Dentistry – Meet the Need.” May 12, 2012. Wiley Online Library, https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1111/j.1741-2358.2010.00423.x.
  2. Handler, Dr. Michael. “Cosmetic & Emergency Dentist in Scarborough.” RSS, https://drmichaelhandler.ca/blog/4-common-senior-dental-care-challenges.

 

Interested in learning more? Check out my continuing education courses at www.tomviola.com/ce

Article Title: The Need For Better Geriatric Dental Care

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