Geriatric dentistry or gerodontics is the delivery of dental care to older adults or the elderly. It involves the diagnosis, prevention and treatment of problems associated with normal aging and age related oral diseases.

Geriatric dentistry is a science that is a multidisciplinary and multidimensional approach to the management of the oral health problems  of the elderly.

Geriatric health is an ignored and under-explored area worldwide. Oral health reflects overall well being for the elderly population.

Common Oral Problems of Elderly People

Commonly encountered dental health problems in senior adults are as follows:

  1. Dental Decay                                 
  2. Gum Diseases
  3. Stomatitis
  4. Glossitis                                            
  5. Tooth Wear & Excessive Staining
  6. Dry Mouth (Xerostomia)
  7. Loss or alteration in Taste
  8. Missing Teeth
  9. Dentures getting repeatedly loose.

As a person grows old, teeth show signs of wear and tear, gums recede, soft moist oral mucous membrane sometimes looks more rough, dry and at times fibrous. There are several changes that may occur as the person grows old. These may relate to clinical changes like wearing of teeth, root decay, gum diseases, discoloration of teeth etc. Apart from clinical changes there may be cellular changes that may have their impact on the teeth. Old age may also bring about changes in drug metabolism that may have its oral side effects such as dry mouth, changes in tastes, oral ulcerations, gingival bleeding etc. Oral tissues can undergo considerable change as a result of advancing age. Reactions of common diseases such as diabetes, cardiovascular and liver diseases, gastrointestinal diseases etc to name only a few, have their effect in oral cavity.

There are some problems which adult patients have to face other than the dental conditions mentioned above. Most of the geriatric patients may be under treatment for various ailments like cardiovascular diseases, blood pressure, depression, gastric disorders etc. The medications that they receive for these conditions have side effects on teeth, gums and other tissues in the mouth e.g. dryness of mouth as a result of anti depressant drugs.

Oral Hygiene Tips For Elderly People

  1. Maintain good oral hygiene. Brush your teeth at least twice a day. This will keep them in good health.
  2. Don’t forget to floss. Once you have rinsed your mouth thoroughly after brushing, use dental floss to thoroughly clean between the teeth.
  3.  After you have finished flossing, rinse your mouth with mouthwash, to get rid of any loose food particles that have been dislodged when you flossed. It also kills any remaining bacteria, and adds extra and long lasting protection.
  4. Drink fluoridated water and use toothpastes and rinses that have fluoride in them
  5. Avoid tobacco. Smokers are more to develop periodontal disease as compared to non-smokers. Smokeless tobacco is known to cause mouth, oesophagus and stomach cancers.
  6. Reduce alcohol intake. Drinking excessive amounts of alcohol  is linked to oral and throat cancers. Alcohol and tobacco used together are the primary risk factors for these cancers, particularly in older adults.
  7. Visit the dentist regularly.
  8. Check for side effects of medicines and them to your doctor/dentist.

Planning Dental Treatment For Elderly People

In view of their altered lifestyle, geriatric patients need special attention and care.

 Impairment of memory, change in anxiety behaviors, sleep disturbance, depression, and disorientation are a few conditions which need consideration when dental treatment is planned.

Their economic status is also required to be considered.

The untreated oral cavity has its deleterious effects on comfort, aesthetics, speech, mastication and, consequently, on quality of life in old age.

As Francis Bacon rightly said,

"I will never be an old man. To me, old age is always 15 years older than I am",

Age should never be considered a barrier for any dental treatment.

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